Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November...but only November has Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving brings to mind many images. Perhaps it's an image of Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered around bountiful tables of food - the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock - Puritans and Miles Standish and so on. Or maybe your image is of our national holiday forged in time of war. It was during the American Revolution that George Washington issued the first proclamation of a day of national thanksgiving. Seventy years later in 1863, with our nation engaged in civil war, at a time when many felt little for which to be thankful, President Abraham Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day for America. On the other hand, for many Americans today, the image likely pictures a well-browned turkey on table and football on TV.
Whatever image comes to mind, these words best accompany:
O Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good. In a time now past when people were more connected to the land, in sowing and harvest, it was about saying thank you to God for seed, soil, rain, sunshine and good crops. Even more so today our thankfulness expands to include all those who supply our supermarkets, along with all of the amazing 'conveniences' we enjoy.
But take care not to limit your Thanksgiving. Fundamentally thank God for yourself and for all people. Thank God for His gifts, our bodies, mind, senses, intellect, and abilities as the Psalmist praises God,
For You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well. Thank God for those placed in our lives who minister life to us; all who help, nurture, support, and encourage us and our neighbor in our physical and mental needs! Give thanks for family, friends, neighbors, including fellow citizens around the world - though in this life we will never meet, one day we shall gather with them in heaven. Thank God for all the beauty of the earth: for rivers, mountains, deserts, coastlines, cities and towns. Thank God for good government and industry and security and all who serve to keep us safe -
that we may live a quiet and peaceful life.
Keeping a thankful mind and heart is good for you and good for your neighbor. Not long ago a Harvard health report observed that
thankfulness carries more punch than just the good vibes it is associated with. Solomon the wise said,
A cheerful (thankful) heart is good medicine. Be cheerful - keep an attitude of gratitude - give thanks on all occasions! Give thanks for what you are and what you have, for what others do for you and what you do for others. After all,
We are His workmanship created (to do) good works that He has already prepared and given for us to do. Ephesians 2.10 Different abilities, different gifts, freely given by God yet to be discovered and deployed by us. And never allow yourself to think that your work is finished. There are many amazing stories of people discovering and developing their gifts right up to the day we leave this earth. One such gift, given to us to be used on behalf of others, is the gift of generosity. This is an amazing thing - there are those who give and give and give some more, not just to get a 'pat on the back'. We love because He first loved us - We give because He first gave to us - and for us that we might give to others. Truly it's about being thankful and generous, especially in the stewardship of our lives as people of God. So we may give of our lives; our time, talent, and treasures...but not unto us, but unto 'Thy Name' be glory given! Psalm 115.1
You may have heard the phrase, 'Blessed to be a blessing.' Origination of that quote? Genesis 12, God told Abraham, 'I will bless you...and through you all nations will be blessed.' Here's a story to illustrate. Once upon a time there was boy who was given a pocket knife for his birthday. He thought the knife was for throwing and for sticking in to the ground or into trees. He even tossed it at his cat! Fortunately, he missed. Grandpa had been watching his grandson.
Let me show you what you can do with that knife. Grandpa took some wood and with the knife he began to whittle, cut, and shave. The boy watched with keen interest. Before long the boy was staring at a smiling bearded faced little man.
How about that? grandpa asked the boy.
And that's not all. Let me show you what else you can do. He went to the refrigerator and took out two bottles of soda. Using the knife, he removed the caps and handed one to his grandson.
There...you can see there are a lot of good things you can do with this knife. Simple point of story: The boy didn't realize the potential of his knife.
Our lives, our talents, our resources are like that knife. To each of us God has given things which can do a lot of good. God has placed talents in our lives as His stewards. But just having a gift does not mean we really know the full potential of the gift. Like the boy with his knife, when God gives us a skill or an ability, He gives the gift for a purpose. Our response is to receive with thankfulness and then get to work. The same poet who wrote the words to Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You also wrote,
Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
The greatest gift of all is our Savior, given by the Father for the life of the world. Jesus died and rose again to rescue us from sin, death, and the devil - so that all might live with Him in in His kingdom forever. Into His death and resurrection, we were baptized, that we might have this new life. Christ rescued us from sin, death, and the devil...He rescued us as well from selfishness and carelessness.
O Give Thanks to the Lord, for the daily opportunity to serve and bless others with our gifts and resources - Ultimately that by acts of service flowing from our thankful hearts, others may receive the greatest gift of eternal life in Christ.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.Jeremiah 1.5
So... where will the holiday of 'Thanksgiving' find you this year? Many (likely most) Americans will gather for a couple of hours in their home, or the home of loved ones. Yet a greater gathering will take place before God's altar. What a feast it will be!
~ Pastor Kelly G. Mitteis
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