Thanksgiving in the World of Middle School
With Christmas music, red Starbucks cups, and the talk of gifts everywhere we look, it may be easy to forget that Thanksgiving is the holiday that is only one short week away. With the way the schedule worked out, we were left three short Sundays and Wednesdays to get all the Thanksgiving fun out of our systems until this time returns a year from now. There will always be turkey trivia games to play and Thanksgiving foods to blend together and taste test, but the thing that will hopefully stick in our minds long after November has passed is the phrase “attitude of gratitude.”
A phrase like this may come across as corny and cliché, but the best part of a cliché rhyme is the way it sticks in our minds and makes it easy to remember. I have already addressed how Thanksgiving can be just a passing season for us on our way to Christmastime, but unpacking our human attitudes addresses just how lasting our thankfulness could and should be. There are a few simple ways we can work to change our attitudes as we seek to be grateful.
We have been hearing Pastor Mike talk about 1 Thessalonians in his Sunday sermons, and one of the most direct calls to thankfulness is found in this book. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians may seem a little overwhelming because here Paul opens up the fire hose full blast, dousing the readers of this letter with a flood of final thoughts. Here we find many pointers to take out of this command to give thanks.
We spent a week with the middle schoolers talking about how we can live with a pattern of showing gratitude for everything. This part of Paul’s command is put into perspective if you remember all that Paul went through. He suffered in tremendous ways, yet still recognized the need for his attitude to reflect thankfulness to God in both the good times and the bad. Secondly, if this is a command for us, it must be an action that we as people can do. In a way, this could be us thanking God by blessing others with the things God has already blessed us with. That is a little wordy, so if you’re a math person and prefer an equation, it could look something like: Thankful Actions = Blessing Others.
Another point—actually, it’s the one we started with for Grace Students—is that we can be thankful for who God is and what He has done for us. As we have been going through a series on thankfulness with the middle schoolers, we have also been going through a series on the Gospel on Wednesday evenings. So in the same week we were talking about being thankful to God, we were also learning about the good news of what God has done for us.
One thing that touched my heart was that being grateful and seeking to have an attitude that reflects this thankfulness should overflow to the way I interact with people who do not know God. Whether I like this about me or not, I go into evangelistic conversations with a set of expectations already placed on the unbeliever. Reflecting on the Gospel and being thankful for what God has done immediately humbles my heart and causes me to throw those unfair expectations out the window.
Thankfulness and humility are traits that should be visible in those who have been changed by the Gospel. This divine message of salvation is the only hope for human souls, and thankfulness for it changes the way I approach others with this reality.
So as we get ready to go into a different routine of Thanksgiving vacations, family gatherings, and copious amounts of food, let’s strive to be thankful for who God is and what He has done as we interact with the unbelievers in our individual circles of influence and share with them the only reason we can have an attitude of gratitude.
John Robertson is a graduate of Grace College with a degree in Biblical Studies and is a pastoral resident at Grace. John is new to the Westerville area but was born and raised in nearby Mansfield, Ohio. John looks forward to pursuing a seminary degree sometime in the future and continuing to work in youth ministry. Currently he enjoys being outdoors—hunting, fishing, and disc golfing—but mostly being newly married to his wife, Callie.
This guest post is written by John Robertson.