This is the second in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.
We live near a natural area that comes alive with brilliant colour in the fall. Early summer’s green grasses give way to a brown, dry landscape throughout the drier months of July and August. As the weeks go by, it becomes entirely monochromatic and unremarkable, until about mid-September.
And then fall comes blazing in.
A few groves of taller trees shine in a yellow hue, but it’s the low-lying brush and grasses that are centre stage. In the nooks and crannies during these weeks of the year, the weeds and small shrubs showcase a marbling of orange, red and purple on the hillside, singing out a beautiful melody to the One who made them.
A few streets away, the tall elms are sending their golden leaves swirling to the ground in the fall afternoon winds. Clouds that threaten a few cold rain showers move across the sky full of sunlight, much paler now than a month ago, but it still holds warmth, bringing a welcome break from the brisk breeze. I truly cannot get enough! Every year I am astounded by its beauty.
The Thanksgiving Tree is up on the wall now, and our handprint leaves remind us of the tangible blessings we have in front of us. One of the other practices I am attempting throughout this season is a daily gratitude journal. Most nights before bed, I think about the ten things I am most thankful for that day and write them on a list.
An altar of sorts.
Several times throughout the Old Testament, at significant moments, God instructs His people to build a raised structure as a place of sacrifice, to mark what He had done at that particular location, for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah and others. Altars were meant for worship, communion with God, and to recall the covenant He made with His people. To turn their hearts towards Him and remember His amazing promises again.
We too need those moments of remembering because in them, a reorienting occurs. As we spend time considering who God is, what He has done in the past, how He has kept His promises through all the generations before us through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection bringing victory over death, and even what He is doing now in our lives through the Holy Spirit, we are changed. Our stone hearts become flesh again, and we turn from our self-centred focus on getting our own way to surrendering to the way of the One who will always do what He says He will do.
Because of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice, the methods of worship have changed, but the heart behind it is the same. We may no longer offer blood sacrifices on a stone altar for the forgiveness of our sins, but when we come to Christ and confess our sins, we receive that forgiveness and brand new life. We walk forward in the truth that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and are being transformed by His power.
These ordinary places of communion with God – these modern-day altars – call us to remember Whom we worship. The glorious colours of fall on the hillside. The daily list of ten things I’m thankful for today. The moments that seem so ordinary – these are the places we turn our hearts toward God and remember who He is and what He has done. We remember Who we were created for.
And we find our hearts full of thanksgiving.