The year of 2020 has become many things to many people. It is a year unlike any other. Some of us were present in the 1950s during the polio crisis, some have been touched by epidemic proportion diabetes, still others cancer or any number of diseases … but the toll has never been as great or widespread as COVID-19.
But the days and holidays roll by just as they always have, even though we may have to celebrate them differently. We may not be with family, do the same activities, or have the same meal. Many are ill, and many have suffered loss.
How will you choose to celebrate the holidays this year?
How will you choose to make time special and honor those who cannot participate or be a part of the usual gatherings?
Many of us look toward our faith, whatever form that may take, to make sense of this time. I look to God and in doing so to scripture and hymns.
This season it is the hymn written by Henry Smith “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” that grabs my heartstrings. You might ask how one can be grateful for all that has happened and all the unwanted changes that have transpired. I believe that out of COVID will come many good things — a new way of looking at each other and being more present, a new thankfulness for the overall good health we have, a new appreciation for a society of workers essential to our overall well-being, an appreciation for safety found in our homes, or a new depth of faith. We have especially found a new value in technology as a lifeline to see and talk with those we cannot be with physically. We are challenged, but in that challenge God shows us blessings.
No one but God can understand the depth of how COVID-19, or any disease, might affect us as individuals. He gave His only Son that we might live and through this sacrifice He understands our pain and our losses.
In 1978, as a young seminary graduate, Henry Smith was struggling to find work and come to terms with a degenerative eye condition that would eventually leave him legally blind. Despite those hardships, Henry found hope in 2 Corinthians 8:9 and penned “Give Thanks,” one of the most beloved songs of our time.
A paraphrase of 2 Corinthians might be, “He came to become like us, to enable us to become like Him.”
Henry remembers “being extremely thankful” during that time in his life. He had discovered that in the darkest winter there “Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son.
And now, let the weak say, ‘I am strong’. Let the poor say ‘I am rich’
Because of what the Lord has done for us. Give Thanks.”
Henry eventually lost his sight but not his gratitude for God’s unfailing love.
In the days ahead may you find strength in the midst of struggle, comfort in the midst of strife, and gratitude in the midst of uncertainty and may you “give thanks with a grateful heart.”