This is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. The last Thursday in November has been designated by congress as a day for national Thanksgiving. More than ever this year it seems like Thanksgiving has become submerged with Black Friday sales and very early Christmas decorations. Even so, we need to pause and think about the meaning of this day. There has been a song running through my head the last couple of days that expresses what this day should be for us – Give Thanks written by Don Moen in 1986. Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son
To give thanks means that we are giving thanks to a person. Who is that? Ourselves for our own strength? Our government for laws and policies they established? Some general benevolent force out there somewhere? Our thanks is only due to One who is above all, who created us and all that is. Above all the family, friends, and material things we have, He has given us the unimaginable gift of Himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is in Him that we have life. We can then go on to sing:
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”
Everything in our world is not perfect. There are things we need or would like to see changed. But above all we have a Lord who has chosen to be a part of our lives. In Him we live, and move, and have our being.(Acts 17:28) For that we give the most hearty thank. Do have a very blessed and Thankful Day.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) This is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. It is a secular holiday with its roots in the colonization of our country by godly men and women who were grateful to God for all the blessings He had shown them. Whether it is seen as a secular or a sacred day we, as Christians, should be the most thankful of all. We know the nearness of our God, and the depth of love He has for all people. We know the redemption and life He has provided in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We know the fellowship He calls us to share now and eternally. In spite of trials we may face in the present time, we can hear and respond to Paul’s words about giving thanks in all circumstances. I hope you enjoy this day in whatever way you are celebrating it. But today and every day give thanks to God who holds you in His hand.
St. Luke’s account of the birth of our Lord is a favorite read during this Christmas season. It is an account filled with praise and glory to God. It contains Mary’s wonderful song “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” When John the Baptist was born his father, Zachariah, sang “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel…” The angels filled the heavens with praise singing “Glory to God in the highest…” When the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple the aged Simeon poured forth his thanksgiving and praise to God for allowing him to see the Christ Child. Praise should be a characteristic of God’s people. Yes, we are in a broken and sin filled world with many trials, but we are here with our God who has chosen to occupy this world with us, promising never to leave or forsake us. His strength, His life giving presence, is here in the midst of all our times and needs, and, in Christ Jesus, has promised to complete all of the good purpose for which we were created. In each of our days we have many reasons to give praise to our gracious God.
A day for giving thanks to God for His abundant blessings has been celebrated in the U.S. off and on since 1789. It was written into federal law in 1941 as the 4th Thursday in November of each year. It is interesting that it was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on December 26th, the same month of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and our entrance into World War Two. In spite of that tragedy, and all that would follow, there was still reason to give thanks. And so it is. We live in a broken and sin filled world. Few things are exactly as we would like them to be. Yet, we believe in a God who has come among us in Jesus Christ to redeem us, and who has promised to never leave or forsake us. He is our God whose hand we have seen in so many ways, even in the most difficult of times, and still continue to see. We, above all, should be people of Thanksgiving. I hope you have a very enjoyable day, but give thanks for our God who love you with an everlasting love.
After I wrote yesterday about being thankful for the many gifts God has given, my e-mail fouled up. It took a few minutes to set things right. Just one of many small, and sometimes not so small irritations that come in life. Sometimes it is with gritted teeth, but I think that is part of what we give thanks for as well as all of the obvious blessings. We are in a world of many trials, but it is a world that our Lord has chosen to occupy with us. He has brought His redeeming grace into this world by His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul wrote that because of this grace “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”(Romans 5:3-5) God is present with us, and because He is we can give thanks for all things.(I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
The leaves are beginning to change color. We saw one tree yesterday that three different colors in it. My Father made that for me to enjoy. My fingers are moving to type these letters. The mechanics of how our hands function is absolutely amazing. My Father designed them and gave them to me. We can look around at a thousand of other things in everyday life, things we take fore granted, but which are absolutely wonderful gifts from our Heavenly Father. My Father and your Father gave them to us. I will be at the hospital today with a cancer patient’s family. We weep time and again over this terrible disease, and the many other ills that face our world. Yet we can thank our Father that He has given many people the skills and desire to help and to heal. Look around today at the gifts your Father has given you. Rejoice, give thanks, and love Him.
Music is throughout the Psalms, and some gets quite noisy – sounding of trumpets, harps and lyres, tambourine and dancing, strings and flutes, the clash of cymbals, and resounding cymbals. (Ps.150) But it is all aimed at the outpouring of praise and thanksgiving to our gracious God. Or consider Psalm 71. “I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed. …”(vss.22-24) “Well,” we might say, “that is really not my style of worship.” The point here is not one of style. It is a heart so filled with gratitude to our gracious Lord that it can’t be contained. We have just come through the Easter account, retelling the amazement of those first witnesses to the risen Christ. Their joy couldn’t be contained. It was so great that they spread the word to all the world in their generation. Jesus is still alive, and has done just as much for each of us. Should not our hearts overflow with joy?
Good Father, on this day that our nation has designated as a day of national Thanksgiving we do give thanks for the abundant grace You have shown us over many years. We give thanks for the wisdom and values passed down from our Founders that has guided our nation for centuries. We thank You for the saints and martyrs who have given themselves that the truth of Christ has been brought to us. But even more we thank You for the grace of salvation given to us in Jesus Christ, for the gift of true life itself through faith in Him. On this day, Lord, we usually think of the material blessings we have in abundance, and we do thank You for these, but nothing is greater than the abundance of Your love sustaining us each day. Lord, we are a nation in transition displaying much anger and confusion. Have mercy on us, Good Lord. We are a nation having committed many sins, pushing You aside, and worshiping our various idols. Forgive us Good Lord. We thank You that the Holy Spirit has never abandoned us, and we ask of Your mercy that You work in the hearts of all our people that we might humble ourselves looking to You for healing. Father, even in the midst of our trials we give You abundant thanks that You are a God of love who seek our best individually and corporately. Help us on this day and every day to turn the eyes of our hearts to You. For You alone are our hope and our life. Glory to Your holy name through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Montgomery County Maryland has recently taken the action to remove all religious names from the school calendar. They will still have days off, but they can’t call them Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, etc. But I wonder what you do with Thanksgiving? What do you call it “The 4th Thursday of November Just Because”? Play with that one! Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. goes back to the Pilgrims in 1621, to George Washington’s declaration in 1789, Abraham Lincoln’s order in 1863, and finally fixing the date of the 4th Thursday in November by Congress and President Roosevelt in 1941. There is no way to remove the implication of this day that we are giving thanks to Almighty God. In our increasingly secular society it has become a day for family, food, and football, but at our gatherings we do usually ask the question, what are we thankful for? We certainly list our relationships, and our material blessings. But the more important question is always, to whom are we thankful? To whom? – the President, the Montgomery County Council, general good fortune, who? This day flies in the face of the militant secularists who would remove all religion from society. I hope you have a very enjoyable and blessed day. Have fun, eat too much, but never forget to whom we give thanks.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.(I Thessalonians 5:18)