Thanksgiving to Advent: Psalm 103
by Carol Seiler, Major –
We may think that a chaotic clash occurs as we transition from Thanksgiving, on Thursday, to Advent on Sunday, with only “black and blue” Friday and Saturday in between. (“Black Friday” is retailers’ largest sales day, “blue Saturday” is my name for the day after the greatest sales day.)
We may feel some tension in marketing ploys—holidays pushed together, decorations quickly replaced—color scheme changed from orange/black to orange/rust to red/green. Salvation Army personnel are into Christmas full time and kettles are out the weekend before or the day after Thanksgiving. Every year in the U.S. billions of dollars exchange hands—over $415 billion in 2004.
Some people respond by saying, “goodness-gracious-ain’t-it-awful-where-does-the-time-go-it’s-all-about-money-anymore-and-Christmas-is-too-commercial.”
Don’t be trapped. We don’t have to be pushed into rejecting or condemning the context of the seasonal changes, and we don’t have to abandon our understanding of the spiritual meaning of these calendar times. Each of us can find peace in the opportunities the “season” offers for integrating meaning and the message. I think that bridging these “markers” can provide great teaching moments and that the linking themes are found in scripture.
Without any stretch, we can link Thanksgiving with the birth of the baby Jesus with the glory of the resurrection at Easter and through the seasons of the year to giving thanks again for the harvest. Psalm 103 helps us do that. Starting with “bless the Lord, o my soul”…
The Lord is the giver of all that is good.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:2). Thanksgiving is about remembering all the benefits that have come our way. Thanks for family, for fellowship, for food, for a roof over our heads, for healing, for large and small mercies that have come to us through the grace of God. The list is there: forgiveness, healing, restoration of our lives, loving kindness and tender mercies…so that we are renewed.
The tradition of Thanksgiving causes even hardened hearts to reflect. While everyone does not come to the same conclusion as to the source of these blessings, it’s a teachable moment. I bless the Lord for His intervention in this world and for His overwhelmingly generous grace in the face of our sinfulness.
The Lord is the forgiver of all sin at the moment of judgment because of his love for his children.
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” (Ps 103: 10,12,17)
The focus of advent is on waiting for the light of the world, who forgives the sins of humankind. The Old Testament scripture in Isaiah is clear on our need for redemption. One of the key things to be thankful for is that we have been given a promise that we will not be dealt with as we should. For those who are still waiting, there may still be the anxiety of anticipation—what if the Messiah doesn’t come?
For Christians, advent is telling the story again symbolically, understanding the foundational conflict of good and evil as people waiting for restoration from God. We can be thankful that we have found mercy and been found by a merciful God. We can share that mercy with others, taking advantage of this time to talk about judgment as a real eventuality.
The king, the Christ, already rules the world.
“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Ps 103:19-22) According to scripture, the angels and those who do his pleasure, bless the Lord. All his works in all his dominion, bless the Lord. The story of a king who came unexpectedly, lying in a manger and worshipped by poor shepherds, is the story of a king who already was on the throne.
And we are so thankful. Tell the story. Use the opportunity for teachable moments all through the “season” because it’s such a great opportunity to hear the message from the beginning to the end and all parts in between. “Bless the Lord, O my soul!”