Philippians 4:4-13Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, Siblings in Christ, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Title: Celebrate Thanksgiving with Grateful Joy
Dear my beloved Dixon: Grace UMC. As we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving this week, our hearts are filled with anticipation and gratitude. It is a time when we gather with family and friends, sharing meals and reflecting on the blessings in our lives. The Scripture from Philippians 4:4-13 reminds us that our celebration should be infused with joy, a joy that comes from our faith in Jesus Christ. The backdrop of Paul's letter to the Philippians is essential to understand the depth of his message. Paul was writing from a place of adversity, and yet he knew how to experience true joy through his relationship with Christ. In the midst of challenges, he found reason to rejoice. This is a powerful lesson for us as we approach Thanksgiving. We can find joy in Christ, even in difficult times. Actually, our faith is not a mere set of beliefs but a way of living, a way of being in the world. Our faith should be visible in our actions, our words, our choices, and our priorities. It could come from our time with God through devotion, serving our neighbors, and through worship service. However, there is something more that should radiate from us, which is gratitude. I believe gratitude is the essence of our faith, a reflection of our wonder at being alive in this world, which is not always easy or fair. It should not be a reluctant thankfulness but rather a cheerful gratitude that overflows from our hearts. In Paul's writings, gratitude and joy are often connected very closely. Joy is a central theme in Paul's message. It is the second fruit of the Spirit, following love. The fruit of the Spirit is love that is joy-filled, and joy is the foundation of grateful living. Paul's message in Philippians 4 provides a recipe for experiencing joy in our lives.
Paul tells us that joy is revealed in how we treat others, in our gentleness, in our response to slights, and in reaching out to those who are hurting. We should let our gentleness be known to everyone. Joy is also found in the nearness of God, which diminishes anxiety and fosters a sense of gratitude and hope. We can approach God with our requests through prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving. To live in joy, we must fill ourselves with the goodness of God's creation. We should focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. In doing so, joy blends seamlessly with gratitude, and a grateful heart becomes the face of joy. Additionally, joy is a communal experience. We find joy in community, mentorship, acts of kindness, contentment, and taking risks. We need to engage with others, learn from those who exemplify faith, and serve with love. Contentment means blooming where we are planted and embracing our current circumstances. Taking risks in faith, knowing that God strengthens us, is a key part of living joyfully. Paul claims to have discovered the secret to joy, and it is rooted in gratitude. Grateful joy is dynamic, an ongoing relationship and way of living that keeps us engaged with God and others. It shapes our language, our vision, and our attitudes. It should be evident in everything we do, in who we are, and in the face we present to the world. In other words, your language, your vision, and your attitudes matter. As Children of God, please represent the joy through your face, language, vision, and your attitude. As we enter Thanksgiving week, we should reflect on this gratitude in the gospel. Gratitude and joy go hand in hand, and our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ should be marked by both. Let our Thanksgiving be exuberant, filled with the joy of being part of a loving community. In this time of celebration, let us sing with light hearts and offer prayers for those who need your prayer support. Embrace the community and family that surround you even though they are so different and difficult and remember that there is room for compassion and support for those who may be facing hardships or pain during this season. Pray for people in difficult circumstances and thank God for the promises of a better future. Please know that you can be a tool of God's thankfulness for those who are in pain. To carry God's thankfulness, I want to invite you to take a tangible step towards letting go of something that may be bothering you, hindering your joy, and preventing you from experiencing the fullness of this Thanksgiving week.
I encourage you to grab a piece of paper that I provided you and boldly write down what is troubling your heart. It could be a worry, a burden, a grudge, or anything that weighs you down. Write it down, unapologetically, and hold it in your hands. Now, I want you to put that paper in this water. This water is blessed by the grace of God and the boundless love of Christ, infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a vessel of divine purification, a sacred bowl for your burdens. As we pray together, imagine the power of this divine water. See it touch the paper in your hands, absorbing the words you've written. Feel it melt away your concerns as it carries them into the loving arms of God.
Let us pray: Gracious and loving God, we come before you with our burdens, our worries, and the things that trouble our hearts. We recognize that these concerns can hinder our ability to experience the fullness of joy that you offer us. Today, we surrender them to you, trusting in your power to transform our lives. As we place our written concerns into this blessed water, we symbolize our willingness to release them into your loving care. We trust in your grace to wash away our worries, and we seek the strength and joy that only you can provide. May this act of surrender be a reflection of our faith in Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome our burdens. As we release these concerns, may we experience the freedom and joy that comes from a deeper connection with you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
As you place your written concerns into the blessed water, let them be a symbol of your faith and trust in God's ability to bring you the fullness of joy. This Thanksgiving week, remember that through Jesus Christ, you can carry the strength to face life's challenges with a heart filled with gratitude and joy. Amen.
In conclusion, let us celebrate Thanksgiving with grateful joy. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice. Embrace the joy that comes from your faith in Christ and let gratitude shine through your actions and words. May this Thanksgiving be a time of cheerful gratitude and joy for all of us. Amen.