GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE GIVER OF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT!
TEXT: I Thessalonians 5: 18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Dearly Beloved Eternally Blest Christians:
Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday schedule, doesn’t it? From now until Christmas and perhaps even New Years people will be going flat out. I’m sure you’re going to hear a lot of “Merry Christmases” “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” in the mall and at the grocery store. Note to self: Turn the tables. Respond: “Yes, have a blessed Christmas.” Or, how about: “And I hope you have a happy holy day, too!” After all, holiday comes from: Holy Day. And anything truly holy always has God involved.
Thanksgiving isn’t an historic holy day on the Christian Church calendar. Yes, I know all about the pilgrims, Abe Lincoln formally setting aside this time for a national holiday, and also the rise of “Turkey Day” popularity in the secular sphere. And yet, literally since the time of Cain and Abel, people have celebrated the giving of thanks not to themselves but to God. You had OT harvest festivals—such as the Feast of the Tabernacles. Also, Pentecost was originally just that, a harvest festival which the Spirit transformed into a harvest of souls festival! A few weeks ago I reminded you on All Saint’s that it, too, was relocated to the Nov. 1st date around the year 800 in order to blend it with harvest celebrations. So, worshipful thanks to God for material, physical, and earthly blessings has always been with us.—A Holy Day, indeed!
Thanksgiving is becoming more popular in America among the secularists than Christmas. I suppose it’s because it doesn’t seem to offend any particular religion, political group, ethnic or social class. Being thankful is one of those “warm and fuzzies” in life that everyone can agree on. And yet, the purest form of any Thanksgiving has to be and always will be coupled to the Triune God, Jesus Christ, and the Christian Church. And our text for tonight tells us exactly why that is true: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
If you were to take a clean sheet of paper, put the year 2012 on top, and then divide it into two columns marked: Pro and Con, which column would be easier to fill up? Be honest, now. Think back on all your aches and pains, all your work frustrations, the disappointment and worry that your kids caused. Think about your struggles to pay the bills, to deal with the loss of loved ones to death, or the bad news that Aunt Mabel or Cousin Steve sent you. Things have turned out a whole lot differently than you imagined on January 1st, haven’t they? Then think about that “Pro” column, or the “blessing” column. Did you thank God more this past year than you did complaining to Him? Did you see the blessing(s) that emerged from your trip to the hospital, your stressful job change, your move, or in my case, the death of my mother? It’s easy to fill the Pro column up with platitudes about: Health, wealth, happiness, a new big screen TV, or a full tummy. But, when you drill down to specifics, individual blessings, how often did you really give thanks? And how often when things got tough did you complain? And still St. Paul says: “Give thanks in all circumstances.” That’s a tough order on Thanksgiving and a tougher order for the other 364 days.
You and I are really, really blest that we can fill that order! How is it possible? After all, I’ve just shot a lot of holes in your touchy, feely, Thanksgiving glow. Well, it’s possible in, through, and because of Jesus Christ and His grace! I suppose the parallel passage to this lesson is Romans 8: “All things work together for good to those who love God.” That’s a direct promise of God to you and me. We love Him because He first loved us. He loved us and loves us in Jesus Christ. So when God looks at you, He actually sees Jesus, His Son. Through faith you and I “put on” Christ. We put on His goodness, His confidence, His honesty at seeing blessings come out of any and all circumstances—no matter how bleak things might appear at that moment. Golgotha was pretty bleak, my friends. But Easter arrived, didn’t it?
I’ll admit that life isn’t easy. I’ll admit that sometimes God has to bonk us to get our attention. I’ll admit that Satan is always working at undermining our sense of blessing and trying to turn us into whiney losers instead of the winners that Jesus creates. It’s easy to “give thanks” when times are good and harder when times are rough. And yet, those words: “All circumstances” still stand. They still apply.
My friends, start taking the long view of your life and the long view of both your heartaches and your joys. Start looking at how God turns daily pain into monthly or yearly avenues of insight into yourself and others. Learn to appreciate hard life lessons as they tend not to be forgotten, hence not repeated. Accept the truth that “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” come only to those who have recognized that they did not possess such gifts on their own, they needed God to bestow them. Yes, complaint-filled prayers don’t show appreciation for what you already have, but thankful ones do. And it is only when you appreciate what you already have that you can take on more.
Thanksgiving is a profound celebration of how we Christians should be all the time: thankful, grateful, and appreciative towards our God, confident that His gracious favor will never be and can never be withdrawn from our lives because Jesus has made it certain! Yes, Thanksgiving is a happy holy day, indeed! Amen