This may surprise you, but one of my favorite cities in America is New Orleans. Polla and I moved to this very unique city to attend seminary. The people in New Orleans are wonderful. While there are many dark and sinful things there, the city is a cultural delight. In fact, I often tell people to choose a seminary on the basis of which one has the best food. New Orleans Seminary wins hands down!
One of my favorite and affordable things to do in New Orleans was to go to Preservation Hall and listen to Dixieland Jazz. Dixieland is a musical genre all to itself and at its heart is musical improvisation. In most Dixieland songs, every instrument gets an opportunity to shine with its own segment of improvisation on the theme. Dixieland Jazz is delightful and wonderful music that lifts the heart.
I have often thought that when Christians get together, we ought to experience a “Dixieland Jazz” time of thanksgiving, especially when we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. We can complain that the world and commerce has downgraded and ignored this particular holiday, but what about us?
I suggest at church, or in the family gathering, followers of Christ fill the air with “Thanksgiving Jazz.” Every person, like members of the Dixieland group, needs an opportunity to improvise on the Thanksgiving theme. Heartfelt and unique moments of expressing thanks to Almighty God for His goodness and grace ought to fill the air. Each person will have their own flair and distinctive personal declaration of God’s demonstrated outpouring of temporal and eternal blessings.
Wouldn’t this be a sweet and refreshing sound to the ears of our Father in Heaven? I am inclined to suggest that it should not be a new sound, but a familiar and beloved sound to our Father. Nothing reveals our true hearts as does the propensity to lavish thanksgiving and praise upon our God. This type of thanksgiving and praise reveals humility and awareness of the source of all good things in our lives.
Is it any wonder that the Psalms are filled with verses that call upon the people to “give thanks unto the Lord”? During that time, it was clear that in worship, both private and public, thanksgiving was an integral part. Worship would be empty and lacking meaning without thanksgiving. Corporately, the people of God were admonished and led to give voice to thanksgiving. The Psalter was intentional in leading the people of God to sing in unison and in harmony, and to shout and speak words of thanks to their loving God. Can we, on the other side of the Cross, do less? Surely God has been good to us!
So strike up the band. Give every person an opportunity to take their turn in creating a time of “Thanksgiving Jazz.” The music will be joyful, and the Father will be blessed by His children.