November 21, 2001: Thanksgiving Eve

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thankfulness is a lifestyle. It is an attitude of the heart that expresses itself with the lips and by our actions. It is humility, joy, and gratitude all rolled into one. Tonight teach us the value of true thankfulness both toward You and towards each other. Amen

TEXT: Luke 17: 17-19: “Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'”

Fellow Redeemed Thankful Christians:

Earlier this month when I was on vacation in Vermont, one of the elders filled in for me on Sunday morning. He read a sermon for that Sunday on which we celebrated All Saint’s Day. That sermon was based on tonight’s text, the cleansing of the ten lepers. And it focused on the one who by God’s grace kept his faith in Christ while the other nine renounced their faith in the face of tremendous blessing-being cleansed from leprosy. I’m not here to rehash those truths. Instead I want to spend just a little time addressing the emotional and spiritual uplifting that comes when true thanksgiving is present. Because as we clearly see in our text:


Earlier this week I was looking at a book I have which outlines various Bible texts for special services. I thumbed through the Thanksgiving section and I was amazed that well over half of the proposed lessons for Thanksgiving come from the Psalms! It seems that joyous worship of our Holy God and a thankful heart go hand in hand. Yes, even in the New Testament we see that same idea that all blessings come from God and that He deserves to be honored for them. For example, think of that glorious passage from James: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights, in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.” Or, recall that phrase from the prodigal son, when the father replies to the angry brother: “We had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours who was dead is alive again, the one who was lost has been found!” What a thanksgiving feast that must have been!

Thanksgiving began in America as a secular holiday-started by Gen. Washington following Valley Forge and revived by Pres. Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War. Everyone likes “Turkey Day” because it seems so secular. And yet, since all blessings come from God and thanks must be directed towards Him, it certainly has become a wonderful religious holiday, hasn’t it?


Tomorrow countless souls will thank “God” for food, house, family, health, wealth, and any other blessing they can think of. They will be fat and happy. Laughter will flow from their lips. However, we Christians have an added dimension to our day of thanks. We have the blessing of eternal life and liberty from guilt and sin because Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us. Yes, we have to celebrate because we’ve received both physical and spiritual gifts from God!

The secular world will stretch out in front of the TV tomorrow after dinner. They will drift off into the happy stupor of rich food. And then on Friday they will awake and hit the malls for a shopping extravaganza-where sharp elbows and harried clerks will make them a bit surly. This will continue right through Christmas as they hurriedly make preparations for another day of patting themselves on the back for all their hard work. My point is: the deep-seated sense of thanksgiving stemming from knowing that our lives are totally in God’s hands and that He’s not about to drop us-that spiritual truth is vital if you are to retain a thankful heart. You, dear Christian, possess it through faith in Jesus. Don’t take it for granted.

The cleansed leper of our text was humble. He didn’t do anything to earn his cleansing. No, it was totally a gift from God. And from his humble, joy-filled heart came praises and thanksgiving. I have often thought how much Christ must have been disappointed in the other nine. We see that disappointment in His question: “Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” That being said, how uplifted Jesus must have been because one did return! This Samaritan’s expression of faith certainly made Christ’s day. It uplifted Jesus. When you thank another from the heart it uplifts them, too. Likewise, when you thank the Lord, as you’re doing tonight, it makes His day, as well.

Thanksgiving uplifts everyone it touches. Why? Because it is the active sharing of Christ’s love. It is a gift from your heart to their heart. The beauty of this season is that we Christians can uplift downcast people not once a year, but every single day!-By remembering to say “Thank you!” But even more importantly, we can uplift our God by returning to Him in humility and praising His goodness. Thanksgiving breeds peace. It breeds joy. It breeds togetherness. You’ll never have another pick a fight with you when you are thanking them. Likewise, when you thank God Almighty, you’ll never find yourself at war with Him, either. No, thanksgiving breeds true peace among men and peace with God. So, let’s continue to adopt tonight’s thankfulness as the constant attitude of our hearts. For thereby we’ll be uplifted, too! Amen