November is the month of Thanksgiving, the beginning of the “Holiday Season”. In today’s culture the things that instantly come to mind when you mention Thanksgiving are first and foremost turkey, football and shopping…yes Black Friday continues its constant encroachment on Thanksgiving Day with many stores set to open as early as 6:00pm on Thursday the 27th of November this year. My opinion is that far too many people now refer to this holiday as Turkey Day rather than Thanksgiving Day. If that’s all that it means, a day to eat turkey, then why bother? I like to eat turkey on other days of the year too, as many as possible! I checked the football schedule and found that there are no less than three NFL games again this year, beginning at 9:30 in the morning with the Bears and the Lions, while the Seahawks and 49ers wind things up somewhere around 9:00 in the evening. If that’s not enough football for you there are also a couple of major college games that you can watch at the same time. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities; eating, football and shopping, but we seem to have lost proper perspective, and completely lost the significance of the Thanksgiving Holiday.
The verse above is a familiar one. Not only can you find it at the beginning of Psalm 107, but also in two other Psalms (118 and 136) along with 1 Chronicles 16:34. These are the words of God given to his people, the Church. They come in the form of an imperative, a command. Giving thanks is what we are supposed to do, continually. The Apostle Paul repeats that in his letter to the church in Ephesus, “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20. I have to wonder, how are we doing on that, thanking God always and for everything? How are we, the Church of Jesus Christ doing in our own Thanksgiving celebrations? Many churches, including those of the Lutheran persuasion, have given up holding Thanksgiving worship services. Why? Because of poor attendance…nobody comes. We try to make them as convenient as possible, on Wednesday evening in many cases, but the results are the same. There are very few for the choirs to sing to, and for pastors to preach to.
Well enough of the guilt trip! What I really want to focus on is the second part of these verses, on what comes after the command. Here we have the compelling reason for our thanksgiving…”for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Indeed we have a good God, one who loves us without fail and forever. Think about that and what it means for a few moments, meditate on it for a bit and see how you feel. God’s very nature, his entire being, is goodness and love, which is continually expresses to you, and to me. Even though we choose over and over again to ignore him, to rebel against him in our sin, He never changes, He never stops loving us and showering us with his goodness. When we do the most hateful things, to others and to him, He still provides us with food to eat, homes to live in, clothing to wear and cars to drive. Our list of blessings goes on and on. That’s not to say that we are always doing bad things, it just illustrates the psalmist’s points that God is with us through thick and thin. James writes; “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 The greatest gift that ever came down from above is Jesus our Savior. Who “came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven.” (You’ll find that in the 2nd Article of the Nicene Creed) Jesus, the eternal Son of God became flesh, a human being, one of us, so that He could take on our sin and die under the weight of our guilt and punishment, satisfying the righteous wrath of God against sin and sinners. His innocent death atones for our sins and in his resurrection we are justified, made right with God the Father, so that we might receive the gift of eternal life by faith. Now there is something and someone to be truly thankful for!
Whenever you hear the word “Thanksgiving” during this month of November take a moment to remember who it is that we should truly be saying thank-you to. That would be our good and loving God, the God who saves us. And if it’s not too much stop by our Thanksgiving worship service that begins at 7:00pm on Wednesday November 26th. I’ll be here, along with a few others.