Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful: and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB)
Tonight is the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. I am pretty sure I look forward to this night more than any other night of the year. Tonight is our church’s Thanksgiving Eve service. Many churches have a Christmas Eve service and that is wonderful but at FBCLG we celebrate Thanksgiving Eve. It has been a tradition as long as I can remember.
The day of the service volunteers come and set it up in the fellowship hall. It’s hard to picture if you havent been there but they set up 4 rows of chairs in two large semi circles facing each other. It’s funny because they never set up enough chairs! Folks are always pulling more chairs in as people arrive late or family members come who have just arrived in town. Everyone participates. We have no childcare that night so families are all sitting together. Many a service I have had one grandchild or another on my lap. It is a precious time. Boy have we made memories at some of our services.
In preparation for the service our pastor has combed the internet (and books before there was internet) for fascinating facts about Thanksgiving. There are sayings, poems, biographies, traditions and why they are traditions, funny stories, things like that. He passed them out to people he volunteers to read them. As the service progresses these now willing volunteers will read their treasures.
Most Tuesday nights before the Wednesday my husband, always the perfectionist, will go down to the church late in the evening to make sure all of the power point for the music is prepped and ready. He will make sure the antiquated sound system in the hall is up and running, the microphone has batteries, the projector works and all things tech are a go. He prepares the slides in beautiful fall and Thanksgiving-y backgrounds. This is an important time for him too although since, as is usual in church too, we don’t get to sit together because he is “pushing the buttons” to make sure it all works. He is the behind the scenes guy you hear about but don’t usually think about until something goes wrong. Then everyone looks and he hates getting the hairy eyeball stare!
As you enter the hall the autumn smells of hot apple cider with cinnamon greets you like a warm blanket. The service begins at 6:30ish with music led by the worship team. It’s so “home town” because the team is usually a eclectic mixture of whoever is still in town. It’s fun to guess how it will go!
Pastor Jeff intersperses verses throughout the singing and readings. Then comes my favorite part; people giving personal testimony of thanksgiving. The mic is passed around and there are always tears. Some are thankful for jobs, good health, living in America, God and His Son, and always for our church family. My favorite each year is when our pastor’s daughter speaks and her voice goes up 3 octaves because she is crying and can’t get the words out about how much she loves the church family. We are her local “family”. We are all family at this church.
The writer of Hebrews knew that church family community was important because he told us not to “forsake” it. Don’t blow it off and think you don’t have to go to church. That is not God minded. The enemy of your soul wants you to think it is OK to be a lone ranger christian. No need for community. Well that is just hogwash! Ridiculous thinking. Forsake means abandon, renounce or give up. What? Are we going to give up or abandon each other now? We need each other daily to navigate through this life. I would not trade meeting weekly with my church family for anything. It has taken years of commitment through thick and thin loving each other warts and all belonging and praying together. I am overwhelmingly blessed. We know each other’s kids, grandkids, hurts, joys, my best friends were made there.
Verse 23 says to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. That is what we do for each other. We hold each other up. Love is poured out with grace. We stimulate each other to love and good deeds. We are a team; a family in every sense of the word through Jesus’ blood shed on that cross for us. Folks may say they aren’t your “blood family” but oh yes we certainly are. When you are knit together through Christ you are blood family.
My heart always breaks when I hear people say they just can’t get plugged in to a church. My advice is to pray and continue to pray for God’s leading. Seek out a bible believing church. Go to the bible studies, the small groups, pot lucks, ministry meetings, baby showers, get involved. Don’t wait for them to come to you. You go to them! It is God’s will for your life to be involved in a community of believers. There is comfort and acceptance there. If you are reading this today, November 25, 2015 drop by our service tonight. First Baptist Church of Lemon Grove. Blessings will surround you as you witness Hebrews 10 lived out before your eyes and at the end there is pumpkin pie with whipped cream, hot apple cider and lots of hugs and well wishes. It doesn’t get any better than that. God bless you dear one. ️