Thanksgiving 2001

Thanksgiving Day is not an appointed church celebration. It is a national celebration. Nevertheless, the church celebrates it for good reason. We are citizens of this nation, and as Christians we have reason to give thanks, though not for a day only. Surely when we consider the blessings of our Heavenly Father from Whom comes every good and perfect gift we have reason to say with meaning every day: “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 106:1).

But really? This year, to say the least, has been eventful. As Christians in this nation we too have suffered through an interminable and mean-spirited election that began last year. There have been forest fires, storms, and drought. Christians too have suffered personal afflictions. We were all appalled at the terrorism on September 11 and have been confronted with biochemical alerts and threats. Now we are at war. And we should celebrate Thanksgiving? Yes.

We have good reason to give thanks just because of what we have recounted. The Lord has sustained us. He has strengthened us. He has provided for us in remembrance of His mercy. In Isaiah 54, ” He says for a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.”

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”

The underlying reason for a national Thanksgiving Day is not appreciation for the Gospel. Yet, as we think about it, it is the Gospel, which is the greatest reason why we as Christians want to give thanks every day. In fact, without the message of the Gospel of of Lord Jesus through Whom God has reconciled us unto Himself and promised to hear our prayers, our thanksgiving would be nothing more than an excuse for personal gratification. It is the Triune God and He alone Who lives to hear our prayers and to receive our expressions of thanks. Every other god is an idol that neither hears prayers nor answers them. To whom do they give thanks who give thanks to a god who does not exist?

It is the Gospel that gives us hope in what is otherwise a hopeless world. We do not know what the future holds for us personally, for the nation in which we live, or for the world. We do know that so long as the world stands sin will be with us, and in the exercise of the sinful nature there will be continuing unrest. That is just the way it is in the world. Even if our stomachs are satisfied on this Thanksgiving Day, the shadow of what has happened in the last months will still be there, and the concerns for the future will not vanish away. So we pray that our thanksgiving will have deeper roots than simply a national excuse to satisfy our desires for food and companionship. The reality is that the Christian’s future is not bleak and hopeless when considered in the context of the promises of our Lord. Here we have toil and tribulation, but the Lord tells us in Hebrews that there remains a rest for the people of God. The Father in heaven is not unaware of our needs for our physical well-being. He is well aware of our anxieties. Remember, further, that the living God and Father is greater than our tribulations and our anxieties: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?As it is written, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35-39). He will keep his children unto everlasting life.

“O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD” (Ps 117:1-2).