Thanksgiving in a Foreign Land

Thanksgiving in a Foreign Land

This is the second year in a row that the Clausings will celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that is not the US. (Side note: this is the first Thanksgiving that Taryn will celebrate as a citizen of the US.) We have done it before, so it isn't a new experience. I remember every year in Colombia gathering with the MTW team, having a great meal, and sharing Thanksgiving traditions. In fact, over the last ten years Taryn and I have celebrated Thanksgiving more outside the US than in the US.

As I reflect on Thanksgiving, the question of "How do you celebrate a uniquely American (sorry Canada) holiday in a foreign land?" Last year and this year again, we won't be eating particularly "traditional" in our celebration. We will gather around a table and have pulled pork and roasted sweet potatoes at this years meal (for my money pulled pork is a better meal than turkey). We also won't watch/play any American football. However, today will give us an opportunity to pause and consider things we are thankful for.

I have spent quite a bit of time walking to and from school thinking about what I can give thanks for, this year. You have the typical and easy things: my family, my friends, my churches (both here in Edinburgh and in the States), the opportunity to study in Edinburgh... the list could go on. There are countless gifts that the Lord has given for which I can and should be thankful for this year.

However, as I examine this last year and consider giving thanks in a foreign land, I am struck by two things. First, that I should be thanking God not just for those easy/happy gifts he has given me this year. I am reminded of James 1:2

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

Philippians 4:4-6 comes to mind:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

These verses don't really give us an option on what we are to be thankful for. James doesn't tell us to only count certain moments "joy." He says count it all joy. It is simple when everything is going well to "count it all joy," but James makes it clear that he is talking about trials as well as those good times. We are to count those moments joy too. You know the moments you can look back on this year and struggled through (or are still struggling through), James tells us to count that as joy too. Paul, as well, doesn't give us an out. He tells us that we are to rejoice always, that we are to not be anxious, but in prayer with thanksgiving let God know our requests. These verses are clear, and they are convicting to me. I am to look to God with thankfulness for all that he gives me, both the good and the bad.

Brakel notes that thanksgiving is:

[W]hen we joyfully acknowledge the goodness of God manifested in all temporal and spiritual blessings bestowed hitherto, doing so especially for specific blessing.

So, the original question: How do I celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that is not our own? Well, the answer is much the same way we all should celebrate and points to the second thing that is being pressed upon me this Thanksgiving. We are all, in some sense, foreigners and aliens in this world. We all celebrate Thanksgiving and give thanks to God in a foreign land. We are all "seeking a better country" (Hebrews 11:16). This Thanksgiving Team Clausing will not eat the traditional food, but we will be thankful. We will keep the call of God on his people throughout the ages (even before it became a uniquely American tradition) to be thankful in all circumstances. We will thank God for all the blessings he has given us, both the joyous providences and the hard providences. We will chiefly thank the Father for the gift he has given in the Son and the indwelling Spirit. We will be thankful that the Lord has promised to come again and set this world right. We will be thankful that in him we have a future and hope. We will be thankful and we will look forward, desiring a better country, and knowing that all that come this next year "whate'er my God ordains is right."

 

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