For family, these are some of the greatest times and we look forward to them. It is funny to see how traditions develop within families. I have been cooking the turkey for my family for 6 years now (I think). It has been almost every year that I have been married to Mindy. This tradition “just happened” and has continued to develop with every year and holiday that we are around. In the midst of a season of the many things that can busy our lives, to find a safe haven where we are able to see the richness of God’s blessing is wonderful. Each of you have your traditions, and as you think of them, fond memories arise. At the pancake breakfast recently, I was discussing green bean casserole with people. You may think I hate green bean casserole because I like to cook, but the truth is, I truly love it! Honestly! I have a constant supply of green bean cans in my pantry. Most of this is due to the fact that as a kid I grew up on them. Even while we were living with my mother-in-law we ate canned green beans. She told me we didn’t have to; we could eat the veggies in the fridge. My response was, “This goes well with the mac n’ cheese.” I truly love green bean casserole. (Yes, I have made Alton Brown’s homemade green bean casserole and it is good also.) There is something about the traditions and history of our lives that bring us comfort. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on those amazing blessings. We see the hands of God through the loving ways of others.
Over this week we will hear that theme of thanksgiving both at our Thanksgiving Eve service and also at our first Advent service. Specifically, on Sunday we will hear how Paul responds to the Corinthians. There are many challenges with the Corinthians – they certainly are in need of repentance. They have done things to put themselves in a less-than-thankful mindset. They challenge the very theology that Paul preaches. Paul knows it’s his job to rebuke the Corinthians, then guide and direct them. Yet he doesn’t start any of this until he expresses his love to and for them. Paul still wants them to know that he thanks God for them every time he prays. This is a true example of the love and thanksgiving Paul has for what God does in his own life. He is thankful even for the challenging relationships.
This is key for us as we walk into this season. Corinthians is a book about loving one – even the challenging ones. This is where the words of Jesus to love our enemies are tough. Paul wants these people who know Jesus to grow in their errors and love in new ways. Thanksgiving can be a great reminder of our past, but our past can also be painful. We think through the years of relationships that are not perfect, because no relationship ever is. Are we thankful for even the challenging relationships? God promises peace in heaven, but peace on earth, well…it’s a work in progress. This week is a real reminder that peace is a work in progress. We see how big decisions are challenging, and as our community reacts, we are reminded to seek Jesus for peace. This week has been painful for St. Louis. As the nation watched us to see how we would react, we see that, like the Corinthians, there is so much of our sinful flesh in this world. The first Sunday in Advent reminds us we are waiting upon the Savior who would bring and teach that peace to this earth. As we embrace and prepare for the birth of our Savior we reflect on the many things we have to be thankful for. We look for the opportunities to celebrate even the relationships that bring challenges, and we wait upon the Lord’s answer for them.