No more empty seats at the table

542873_10151177881463246_961325301_n“’O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

For the past 21 years, we’ve had a special service on the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving that we call our Thanksgiving Praise Service. It has become a tradition at WCC.

We sing worship songs, we hear Scripture readings, we watch video highlights of the year’s events and these past few years we’ve been finishing the service by preparing gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It’s a powerful look back on what God has done in our lives during the year, as well as a hopeful look forward to what He will do next.

I can get pretty emotional at these services. Worshiping together with my fellow Christ followers, I look around to notice the new members, those who came to Christ that year and were baptized. Also, I notice all the new babies in the arms of our young mothers. I’m filled with overwhelming joy as I consider all the new life that God is bringing into our church family.

I also take note of the empty seats. Who are the ones that we have lost this year? We’ve had some wonderful births and baptisms, yet how many failures and funerals have we experienced in the last year? How many have stumbled and fallen into sin? How many loved ones have passed away?

This mixture of emotion follows me home from church and into my own house. As we celebrate Thanksgiving at our house this year, we’re thankful for our new baby granddaughter, Addison. But we’re also still grieving the loss of our grandson, Conner.

Sitting at the table on Thanksgiving Day, I know I’ll be looking at all the young and beautiful faces of my kids and grandkids. I know that I will swell with gratitude. Yet, I also know that I will think about all the previous Thanksgiving Day meals that I have enjoyed in the past and all the loved ones that are no longer sitting at the table with us.

How can we be truly thankful with this mixture of life and death in our lives?

The apostle Paul says that we can give thanks to God because He has given us the victory over death and sin through Christ! He says that we can “abound” in doing good because nothing we do for Christ is in vain. We can be thankful, because in Christ, nothing good is ever lost!

We can remain “steadfast” and “immovable” in our thanks to God because there’s a Day of thanksgiving coming someday soon when there will be no empty seats at the table!

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