Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we give You, the Father, and the Spirit our thanks and praise for getting us through another year. We thank You for all the blessings—both temporal and spiritual—which You have graciously poured into our lives. And amid the joy of tonight and tomorrow, we especially are grateful for Your blessings born of love which can never be taken away from our lives. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE HAVE TRUE THANKFULNESS!
TEXT: I Chronicles 16: 34: “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.”
Fellow Redeemed Thankful Christians:
It was a cold November day and Debra Ann and I were walking in the woods along with another couple. The ladies were off ahead of the other fellow and I. He turned to me and said: “Pastor, I really like the late Fall. With the cold air and the falling leaves you find yourself turning inward, getting ready for winter.” It’s true, isn’t it? The nesting, cocooning instinct comes out especially in the late Fall. And with that turn inward you also find yourself, whether you’re a Christian, or not, thinking about your blessings and recounting aspects of your life.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving Day is celebrated and upheld by people throughout our land of literally every religious and cultural background. The cold, bare ground forces us inward-looking. And when you couple that with the harvest, food, family, and a feast to celebrate, well, who could ever be anti-thanksgiving? It’s almost as if it is a core element to our very being.
To be sure this is a secular holiday. But it does have antecedents in both the Old and New Testaments in that they, too, celebrated harvest festivals. That being said, tonight I want to dwell on the Christian aspect of Thanksgiving by answering this question:
WHY IS THANKSGIVING ESPECIALLY MEANINGFUL FOR THE CHRISTIAN?
Most people don’t go to church on Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Eve. It’s not like Christmas in that regard. But all celebrate the day and not just because they have gotten a reprieve from work! People celebrate because it just seems right. That Fall-driven, drawing inward forces us to examine our own lives and count our blessings. And so, tomorrow, even though most people seldom pray before they dive in, it will be different. They will offer up some sort of prayer, or perhaps a simple litany, of the good things that have come their way over the past 12 months. Things like: a job, health, family, food, possessions, or grandma’s successful heart surgery. To be sure, some will dwell on what they have accomplished by their own efforts and thus engage in self-thankfulness. Yes, selfishness is alive and well in America. But for most, Thanksgiving means just that: the giving of thanks to someone or something outside of themselves. People seem to need to look and venture outside of themselves during this time. I suppose too much of that “turning inside” gets a bit much when they don’t find true joy but the ravages of sin living there! So altruistic acts abound during this season. Things like helping the poor, working in a soup kitchen, giving away turkeys and the like also occupy people’s time. It makes them feel good. For they are actually “giving” something of themselves to another.
God originally created human beings with His very image of: sinlessness. He created us to be kind and loving and giving, just like He is. Thanksgiving is important even for the non-believer because vestiges of that remain and come out during this season of turning inward. That being said, the richest and fullest expression of Thanksgiving can only be had and experienced by the Christian. The reason for this is that because we’re linked to Him through faith, we see life differently than the rank and file of America.
We give thanks to God because He built us that way. He made us to be thanks-filled. He made us to be cognizant of His love and care for all creation and especially for His totally loving nature as seen in sending us a Savior, Jesus Christ. For us that job, financial security, house, family, or health is a special gift directly from Him. For us those things are divine because He stands behind them. So, we simply love giving Him our thanks and praise because He gave us eternal love in the form of Christ. We give Him our hearts because He has already given us His huge heart!—That’s the meaning behind the cross and the empty tomb, isn’t it? When Fall arrives and we begin that turn inward, the first thing we see is Christ’s forgiveness for our sins of ingratitude. And the only way to push that negative image aside is for us to give Him our thanks, our love, to turn outward to Him.
The OT writer says it all in our lesson: “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” Yes, He is goodness itself, and even more importantly, His love lasts forever, His mercy on us ingrates never ceases. For His ultimate gift to us, Christ, endures forever since He is our living Lord!
Why is Thanksgiving Especially Meaningful for the Christian? Because God’s unconditional love has been poured out upon us in Jesus Christ. And such love cannot help but show itself in heartfelt Thanksgiving directed to its Source. Amen