For Unopened Gifts

Last week, I asked one of my Sunday School students, “For what are you thankful this year?”

“I’m thankful for the presents that I’m gonna get for Christmas,” he said, smiling.

I frowned and began a lecture in my head, “Let’s take one holiday at a time, shall we? How rude to rush ahead to your Christmas list when you haven’t taken time to properly remember what you’ve been given.” Sheesh… kids these days.

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Thanksgiving was meant to be a day of giving thanks for the blessings and harvest from the preceding year. After sufficient provisions have been measured and stored away for the winter, the Pilgrims celebrated and gave thanks.

In the world’s economy, that makes perfect sense.

And that boy’s answer sounds so wrong…

But the longer I think about it, the more I’m starting to like it.

Now, of course it’s good (and Biblical) to express thanks for what I’ve been given, but shouldn’t my thankfulness extend beyond what I’ve experienced? Shouldn’t it also boldly reach forward to what I’ve been promised?

That student is thankful today, expecting joy from unopened gifts, because he’s remembering the past.

He’s the worker who is hosting a feast in the spring because the seeds are in the ground… and because he’s learned how good the Farmer is.

Isn’t that the essence of gospel-centered living?

Doesn’t that make perfect sense with God’s upside-down economy?

I often play the Pilgrim; measuring, counting, and weighing my resources before saying thanks. I make sure there is plenty of hay in the barn… before I feel I can rest; before I can loosen my bonnet and celebrate.
But the gospel tells me I can be grateful amidst empty barns and even when resources don’t measure up. The gospel allows me to have the faith of a child; trusting in God’s plan for my past, present, AND future.

I’ve always wondered… the year after that first post-harvest feast, what if the Pilgrims measured their supplies only to find that there wasn’t enough to last the winter? I’m sure they prayed for God’s help, but could they bring themselves to offer thanks? Instead of feasting, did they spend the week worrying or trying to scrounge up more nuts and berries to make up the difference? Was their Thanksgiving party tentatively scheduled each year?

Again, in the world’s economy, that all seems sensible and wise. And honestly, it’s how I live.

I don’t have to play the Pilgrim. 

Thanksgiving shouldn’t be all about gifts already given…

It’s a mom in her worn-out kitchen with her broken family, giving thanks to the God who will eventually make all things new and whole.

It’s a virgin, with the cries of her baby echoing through an empty barn, rejoicing in a mysterious plan to save the world.

It’s the King of Kings, in the form of a Jewish man, about to face the ultimate emptiness, breaking bread and giving thanks; trusting in the plan to rescue and fill the empty people around him.

Thanksgiving is being thankful for the Gift-Giver, regardless of what’s in the barn. 

It’s being thankful for what’s already been done, for what is presently being accomplished, and for what’s to come… three courses making a complete meal.

So go ahead, Pilgrim. Look back and thank Him for providing enough.

And rest now at the table, grateful for today’s portion.

But don’t feel guilty if you want to uncinch your bonnet and let a little of Christmas sneak in to your November …it’s right and good to thank Him for the greatest Gift yet to come.

Merry Thanksgiving,


21 thoughts on “For Unopened Gifts

  1. Kathryn Shirey November 26, 2014 / 11:37 am

    I love this! We're called to be thankful in all circumstances – whether our barn appears empty or full. No matter how things appear, we can and should still be thankful.


  2. Beth Willis Miller November 26, 2014 / 11:49 am

    Karen, love this! So sweet to use your experience in your children's Sunday School class to apply to our lives…I was right there with you…”expecting joy…because he's remembering the past” ❤️


  3. susieteramura November 26, 2014 / 11:54 am

    This is wonderful! Thank you for this- Very beautifully written, and such good thoughts! And I love the Merry Thanksgiving! I put my decorations up earlier than ever before this year, and I kept feeling guilty about it- because I didn't wait until my traditional “after Thanksgiving time”-So thank you for helping me feel better about mixing the two holidays too 😉 !


  4. Kristin Taylor November 26, 2014 / 2:41 pm

    I love this! Remembering God's faithfulness has always been one way I find hope on the hard days, so I really appreciate how you've defined Thanksgiving this way. And I'm glad you linked up for Three Word Wednesday at my place.


  5. Katie Reid November 26, 2014 / 3:00 pm

    Thank you friend- definitely needed to hear this!


  6. Susan Shipe November 26, 2014 / 3:19 pm

    Sitting in the Thanksgiving chair, remembering…..xo


  7. Karrilee Aggett November 26, 2014 / 7:34 pm

    Oh I love this… such a great twist on reflecting back – which is so important, but also looking forward in joyful anticipation! Amen, friend! Praying for you and your city! Leaning in to anticipation with you! Happy Thanksgiving!


  8. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup November 26, 2014 / 10:32 pm

    I love your perspective on this, Karen. This is my favorite line “Thanksgiving is being thankful for the Gift-giver, regardless of what's in the barn.” This week on my blog, I have been sharing all of the gifts I have been given that I am thankful for, but I also mentioned the hope of our future with Christ. We are blessed here, but life can be hard. Sometimes, it is the hope of my future, rather than my present condition, that I am most thankful for. Thanks for sharing and a blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.


  9. strainme November 27, 2014 / 12:26 am

    Thank You God for what You are going to do in my life!


  10. Karen Brown November 27, 2014 / 3:26 am

    Heather- Thank you!…and Happy Thanksgiving!


  11. Karen Brown November 27, 2014 / 3:27 am

    Susan- Thanks for stopping by! Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


  12. Karen Brown November 27, 2014 / 3:28 am

    Kathryn- Thank you so much for stopping by! Your encouragement is much appreciated.


  13. Karen Brown November 27, 2014 / 3:29 am

    Kristin- Thanks so much for hosting and for your encouragement. Happy Thanksgiving!


  14. Karen Brown November 27, 2014 / 3:30 am

    Susie~ Thank You for your kind words. And yes… no guilt for mixing the holidays! Merry Thanksgiving to you!


  15. Dianne Thornton November 27, 2014 / 4:20 am

    This is great! I love that a child got your heart and mind spinning in this direction. Very hope-filled. Merry Thanksgiving to you, too, Karen!!


  16. blestbutstrest November 27, 2014 / 8:17 pm

    What a wonderful way to look at it! I've never considered the 'Pilgrim Perspective' before. We should give thanks–no matter what. And repeat with frequency (not just once a year!).


  17. Mary Dolan Flaherty November 29, 2014 / 4:00 pm

    I love how you took that little boy's comment and made it relevant. The Holy Spirit surely did show you how to be thankful for what is to come, even if what we want is not in our storehouses/barns/life. Thanks for sharing that.


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