“Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
to God our Creator triumphantly raise;
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
by guiding us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us; pure light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night:
Till shadows have vanished, all fearfulness banished,
as forward we travel from light into light.”
The text of the hymn “Let All Things Now Living” was written in 1939 by Katherine Kennicott Davis. She was a composer from the age of 15 and the author of the Christmas tune “The Little Drummer Boy” among other songs and hymns. This hymn has been one of my very favorites and I find myself singing it not just at Thanksgiving, but throughout the year. The first verse of “Let All Things Now Living” is quoted above as a reminder of the One to Whom we owe our gratitude and praise. It invites us to expand beyond national boundaries or holidays to join with all creation in giving thanks to God. I thought it a particularly beautiful and stirring way to remind us about the habit of being grateful.
An attitude of gratitude is something I am slowly coming to cultivate as one tool in my arsenal against internal unrest, both personally and in what we all face nationally. Gratitude is a decision we make over and over when our preference would be to complain or let our thoughts remain in the negative. Gratitude requires a shift in perception from seeing everything as a problem to looking intently at things until a reason to give thanks arises. We learn to be grateful best when shared with others. It can be somewhat contagious if caught and passed on.
One way to begin may be at Thanksgiving gatherings this week: Ask those around you to recall something they enjoyed over the last few days or weeks. In addition to naming it, ask them to tell you more about their experience, and listen for expressions of gratitude. Listening to others describe moments for which they are grateful helps us see beyond our own limited viewpoints, and perhaps find common ground in being thankful. May your gatherings be filled with gratitude to share!
The scripture reading for this Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, is Matthew 23:36-44. We begin Advent very simply in the sanctuary with lighting Advent candles, singing Advent hymns and focusing our attention on the word for the day, “Watch.” We will celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and enjoy special music throughout this new Season of Advent. Let us rejoice in the promises, love and grace of our God, as the Holy Spirit leads us in worship and celebration.
This Sunday we will celebrate Christ the King. It is the last Sunday in the church’s liturgical calendar before the new year begins next Sunday with Advent. As the final Sunday of the church year, we are called upon to recognize Jesus as our Savior and Messiah, and the ultimate King of all creation. It focuses the church on the belief in and hope of Christ’s return to establish fully the Reign of God, while recognizing God’s claim on our daily lives as well. We may struggle a bit to understand the meaning of claiming Christ as our king, because it doesn’t fit our governmental structure as Americans, but we know and rely upon what it means to be held by God’s grace and to live within the realm of God’s love as demonstrated through the life death, resurrection, teachings and very real presence of Jesus Christ. It is a hopeful celebration in which we gather at the Lord’s Supper to recommit ourselves to the one who is sovereign overall. In times of insecurity, knowing God loves us and promises to be with us always is some of what it means to claim Christ as King.
The scripture readings for this Sunday are Psalm 46 and Luke 23:33-43. The Psalm is one of my favorites, calling upon God as our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. The Gospel reading is part of Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion and his words of assurance from the cross. Please read them prayerfully to prepare your heart and mind for what the Spirit has in store for our worship. Let us rejoice in the love and grace of our God, as the Holy Spirit leads us in worship and celebration.
Pastor Chuck Goodman has been pastor at Hope for nearly ten years. He writes each week about what's on his mind, giving readers something to meditate on until and beyond Sunday.