Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
We gathered in the large room, filed with round tables and decorated for Thanksgiving. There was much small talk, as we greeted people we had not seen for some time. The word was given and we all found our places at the tables. Each place was marked with a leaf bearing a name. My three nieces, who shouldered the responsibility of organizing this event, took their place at the front of the room and greeted the assembled clan. Then, in turn, a member of each of the four generations represented there rose and asked a blessing on this significant event. We wiped tears from our eyes as the final Amen was said. Then we descended on the tables, laden with more food than we could possible consume. Our long awaited Thanksgiving reunion was underway. For the rest of the day we basked in the joy of a family gathered.
In a world filled with disjointed, dysfunctional, wounded families, it is a unique experience to gather with four generations of one family, intact. I was able to reconnect with two cousins I had not seen in decades. I was able to spent time with both of my brothers and their families. I was able to relish moments with my parents, who are both in the late 80’s and doing remarkably well. For one week, we gathered in North Carolina and celebrated the gift of family.
As I reflect upon my experience, I am struck by the enormous blessing I have been given. It is all too easy to take our family for granted, or worse to find fault with our family. But family is a gift that is to be treasured. It is the foundation for all civilization and culture. It is the training ground for life. It is the port in a storm that can give us the strength to go on. It is the place of joy that can enrich and enhance our lives. It can be all of these things and more, but it is not for far too many.
For many people, family is a negative experience. It is a place of abuse and conflict. A place that drains, rather than sustains. A place to be avoided.
That was never God’s design. God desires that we all find our place in His family. In our human efforts, we fall short of God’s design and intent. But God has provided a place for all who will take it, in His family. In Christ, we belong, we are valued, we are safe. Through faith in Christ, we can transform our natural families into supernatural families; families connected by more than genetics. We can enter into a eternal family that will never pass away. It has been may privilege to experience both an intact, healthy natural family and God’s eternal family. For those who have not shared in my blessing, there is hope. That hope is found in Christ Jesus.
As the Apostle John wrote to a group of oppressed and possibly discouraged people, he extended an amazing word of hope. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
John’s words of hope are great news for all of us, but especially for those who feel abandoned, abused and rejected. We belong! We have a place! We are loved! When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s forever family. We move from a life dominated by darkness into the light of the glory of God. We have hope for the future and for eternity. The resources that we need to face the challenges of life are available to us, in abundance. All we have to do is ask.
My family experienced an amazing gift this past Thanksgiving; an unprecedented gathering of family. As we gathered in worship on Sunday morning, I was aware that our gift is enhanced, enriched and expanded by our family of faith. Membership in that family is open to all who will accept Jesus’ invitation to come in.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10