Friday, November 19, 2021

Know What You Got

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you've got till it’s gone,” are lyrics from the popular Joni Mitchell song Big Yellow Taxi. The song was released in 1970 and has been covered a few times since then. You’ve probably heard it. If not, you get the message. The sentiment is pretty straightforward – we tend to appreciate things only after they have been taken away or lost. I hear the same thought at funerals and, being a minister, I have been to more than my fair share of them. Mourners are known to remind those in attendance to make sure they hug their loved ones and live in appreciation of their relationships. As an officiant I have often expressed that very same feeling. It really is a good reminder.

But isn’t it sad that we have to be reminded? Isn’t it sad to think that we are living with joys and blessings and pleasures and we don’t even know it? Isn’t it sad to only appreciate the gift of life only when it’s gone? Shouldn’t it always seem to be that we do know what we got before it’s gone?

Thanksgiving is upon us once again and we will gather around tables and reflect on the blessings of another year. Many of us will pause to offer prayers to the God who provides it all. We may even get a little teary-eyed with joy watching the little children play or with melancholy wondering if this may be our family’s matriarch’s or patriarch’s last Thanksgiving with us. Thanksgiving really is a good day. It really is a good reminder.

But is a day enough? Is a season enough?

Thanksgiving is a theme that is woven through all of Scripture. And although there were designated thanksgiving celebrations, the prevailing thought is that believers live in a constant state of gratefulness. In the Psalms King David never qualifies the when of thanksgiving just the necessity of it. The prophet Daniel offers prayers of thanks three times a day. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to give thanks always. Thanksgiving even extends beyond this world as we see the angelic chorus of the book of Revelation offering thanks in heaven.

A day or a season is not enough. Thanksgiving needs to be at the very center of our being. Thanksgiving needs to be our first and last thought of the day and many times in between. Only then will we be able to capture all the joys and blessings all around us that are so often only inadequately celebrated in their absence, if at all.

A day or season are certainly not to be dismissed. They have their benefits. But isn’t Thanksgiving really a day to remind us that thanksgiving needs to be more than a day or a season? Isn’t it a reminder that an ever-present spirit of thanksgiving has the power to infuse us daily with hope and purpose and joy in a world where it is easy to fall into despair and hopelessness and sorrow? And isn’t that what we need?