Pastor John Barnette
It is hard to believe that the holiday season is already upon us. It feels like, somehow, 2020 dragged on and flew by at the same time. Because of the pandemic and quarantining, time has seemed irrelevant as we canceled plans, restricted our schedules, and spent months on end at home. Now, November is here, bringing with it the holiday season and questions about how we will see our loved ones and celebrate. One thing is for certain, though; the holidays will not be the same this year.
The first holiday that most of us will celebrate is Thanksgiving. Although Thanksgiving is technically only one day, for many, the month of November has become a time to reflect on everything for which we are thankful. There is even a 30-day Thankfulness Challenge that goes around on social media, meant to encourage everyone to post one picture per day of something they are thankful for. The purpose of the challenge is to create within us an attitude of gratitude.
Even though I don’t participate in the social media Thankfulness Challenge (I’m not good at remembering to post on social media!), I appreciate its intent. The challenge was created to help people see the good things in their lives, appreciate them, and be grateful. To do so, we must pause for a moment and look around. We must look past our busy schedules and long to-do lists that bring stress, remembering that life is so much more than the tasks and appointments with which we fill our days. This challenge encourages us to remember our friends and family and to look around at the seemingly small, yet important, things that we take for granted, like food on the table and coffee in our favorite mug.
This November, I want to encourage you to take part in your own 30-day challenge. Take a moment to reflect on all the large and small things in your life for which you are grateful and write them down. Remember them and give thanks to God for them, because we know that all good things are gifts from him, made available to us because of his grace. If you desire a daily guide, please see the listing in this newsletter.
While I strongly encourage you to share your gratitude with God through prayer, I also want you to let your gratitude affect how you live your life. In other words, let your gratitude lead you to a life of humility. Share your blessings with others. If you are thankful for your friends, be a friend to someone who needs one. If you are grateful for the food on your table, share a meal with someone who is hungry. And if you are thankful for your church family, invite a neighbor to join you for Sunday worship.
Nothing says “thank you” to God more than using what he has given you to glorify his name and build his kingdom. So, I encourage each of you to take the 30-day Thankfulness Challenge, but don’t stop after 30 days. Remember to be grateful. Let it fill your hearts and be reflected in your actions. Lastly, let your life be a testament to God’s overwhelming grace. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! Amen.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Pastor Ken Ewing
Recently I was reflecting on the tremendous hype of Halloween. The fascination of dressing up as someone you’re not. The fixation on death and being scared out of you wits. The delight in trick-or-treating to get a great amount of candy. In reflecting on the obsession with Halloween, it occurred to me that the celebration is a far cry for the initial intent of the holiday.
Halloween comes from traditional ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would light bond-fires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. It was held on the eve of All Saints Day and became known as All Hollow’s Eve. It was a preparation for the day of commemorating all the saints of the church both known and unknown who have attained Heaven. Initiated in the Catholic Church, it was latter found favor in other Christian denominations.
The Catholic Church saw All Saints Day in a somewhat narrow focus commemorating those whom the Church elevated to the status of sainthood. In other traditions which did not have elevated saints, say all believers are saints. Which comes from the Apostle Paul who saw everyone in the faith as saints, meaning true believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Both traditions central focus is to remember all the saints who have gone before offering thanksgiving and honor. In the process of remembering, the celebrant is reconnected spiritually and emotionally with the saints who have passed on. All Saints Day then is a sacred day of commemoration which has faded from our days of celebrations.
My hope for those of us in the Christian faith that we regain a focus on All Saints Day as a time to give thanks for the saints in our lives and honor their gifts left with us. HAPPY ALL SAINTS DAY. Amen.
As I pause to write this newsletter article, my family and I are in the throes of packing up our house in North Carolina in preparation for our move to Florida!
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