Skip to comments."Thanksgiving: America's Forgotten Holiday" (Sermon for Thanksgiving Day)
Posted on 11/25/2009 8:44:02 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
Thanksgiving: Americas Forgotten Holiday
Ah, Thanksgiving! Turkey, football, and the start of the holiday shopping season. No, wait, that started back around Labor Day. But seriously, is that what Thanksgiving has come to? An opportunity to eat 2,000 calories in one sitting, then fall asleep on the couch watching the Detroit Lions, so you can get up the next morning at 5:00 a.m. to buy presents for people you dont like, with money you dont have, for stuff they dont need? Thanksgiving has become the Eve of Black Friday. And its a big day at the movie theatres, too. Got to go see New Moon for the third time. Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob? So its turkey, football, shopping, and movies. Is that what Thanksgiving is all about?
Really, Thanksgiving Day has fallen on hard times. You might call it Americas Forgotten Holiday. Even Halloween seems to have eclipsed it in popularity. Oh, its not as though Americans dont like their Thanksgiving. They do. They like having a day off from work or school. They like being able to see their family and friends--well, maybe except for Uncle Fred, who gets the gas from the turkey, and Cousin Verlene, whose dentures make that clacking sound. But, for the most part, we Americans like our Thanksgiving. Its just, Dont bother me with that giving thanks bit.
Well, Ive got news for you, gang: That giving thanks bit is the reason we have Thanksgiving! Thats why the day exists: for Americans to gather in their churches and give thanks to God Almighty for his many blessings upon our nation. Thats why we have Thanksgiving Day in the first place. But thats why I call Thanksgiving Americas Forgotten Holiday: because hardly anybody even thinks of that anymore, much less actually goes and gives thanks to God. There are even churches that have capitulated to the culture and, if they have Thanksgiving service at all, have it on Wednesday evening, to get it out of the way, so people dont have to be bothered giving thanks on Thanksgiving. Weird.
Who wants to give thanks to God? Well, you do. You, dear Christians, you who are here this morning. Even if you grumbled a little bit getting here, because you have company coming over in a couple hours and you still havent made the mashed potatoes. But youre here, nonetheless. Thank God. Yes, thank God for that, that at least you have as much sense left to remember, For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him.
Now today is the Day of National Thanksgiving. That is the official title. In addition to all the personal blessings we have received over the past year, we especially want to thank God for his blessings on our nation. Now you say, Youre kidding, right? What is there to be thankful about? I mean, the economy is in the tank. The recession is still with us. Jobs have been lost. The government wants to take over more and more control of our lives--and our pocketbooks. The culture wars are going badly. That homosexual marriage, which is an oxymoron, is even being considered is a bad sign in itself. Abortion is still legal, with no end in sight now. Marriage and the family are in tatters. Divorce is still prevalent. Lots and lots of couples are still shacking up instead of getting married. The rate of out-of-wedlock births is higher than ever. And people are not even ashamed of these things anymore. So what is there to be thankful for? America is in really bad shape, economically, politically, morally, and spiritually.
What I want to say to you today, though, is--and this is the main point--lets be thankful for what we can and should be thankful for. Amid our concerns about the problems in our country, lets not forget to give thanks to God for all the blessings he continues to give us in spite of ourselves. And those blessings are many. We live in a land that is rich is natural resources. You know, Moses spoke to the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land, and he said: The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
Folks, Ive been to Israel, and it is a beautiful land. Ive seen the hills and valleys and olive trees. But Ive also been to America, and Ive seen the cornfields of Illinois and the fertile valleys of California and the orange groves of Florida--and, yes, the mineral area of Missouri. Let me tell you, America does not have to take a back seat to the Promised Land when it comes to natural resources and scenic beauty. We are truly blessed in that regard. And if Moses told the Israelites, You shall eat and be full, then that is all the more true for us, as youll realize in a couple of hours at the end of that 2,000 calorie meal. And you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Lets do that today.
What else can we be thankful for, on Americas Thanksgiving Day 2009? Heres what I think is still the most important thing, and its something we may overlook: We still have the freedom in this country to gather in our churches and hear the gospel preached freely, without persecution. We shouldnt take that for granted. That has not always been the case for Christians in other parts of the world, and it may not always be the case in this country, either--we have no guarantee of that. Let us give thanks to God for our freedom to practice the Christian religion.
Heres why thats the most important thing about America: Because the gospel of Christ is the most important thing in the world. Its the most important thing--indeed, its the only thing--that can give you life. This gospel is the saving message of Gods love for us in Christ. For God so loved the world--including America--that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.
Dear friends, dear fellow sinners, the good news is that Christ, the Son of God, came in our flesh and suffered and died to set us free. He came for a bunch of ungrateful wretches who forget about God, who do not praise him as they ought, people who are more concerned about stuffing their belly and buying their stuff than they are about giving thanks to the God who created them and continues to care for them. In other words, Jesus came for people like you and me. We could not erase the debt of our sin, but Jesus could--and did. He took away your sin, canceled the debt, by his death on the cross for you. His rising from the dead shows the result of sins forgiven, and that is life victorious from the grave. This gospel is the only saving powerful word there is that can lift you or anyone else from death to life. That this good news can be freely preached and heard and believed here in America, in relative peace and quietness--that is the best thing about living here.
Today lets be thankful for what we can and should be thankful for, and then lets pray about the rest. In fact, lets pray about the bad stuff and then work to correct it, in whatever way we can. But the main thing is, today, on Americas forgotten holiday, lets not forget to be thankful--thankful to God for all his blessings to us as individuals and as families and as a nation.
Heres an idea: Today when you sit down for that big Thanksgiving meal, maybe go around the table and everybody say a few things youre thankful for. Maybe it will include the fact you got to go to church today and hear the gospel. And perhaps youll think of a few other things, too, even if you dont mention them--like how youre thankful Uncle Fred is still around to enjoy the turkey, and how Cousin Verlenes clacking dentures arent so bad after all. And when youre done going around the table, and everybodys had a chance to say what theyre thankful for, then cap it off with something like, Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever. Now theres a radical concept! Giving thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day! Whatll they think of next?
I agree - I love Thanksgiving. It has disheartened me to see it being basically ignored and skipped over the last 10 years or so. When stores start putting up Christmas decor in August, it turns me away. When I only see Christmas-themed commercials this week - and nothing dealing with Thanksgiving - it turns me away.
I wish people would care more about Thanksgiving, I think a little more appreciation and gratefulness would be a good thing.
Thank you, Charles! I am grateful. :)
Charles, I gotta tell you, even Wednesday evening I was too busy to go to church. When the pastor said Sunday that the 6 and 9 am Masses for today were being replaced with one 10 am Mass, I knew I wasn't making it. I started working again at 7:30 this morning. Whoever's cooking just CAN'T knock off for a 10 o'clock service. We'll give thanks at home for all the blessings we still have, though three wrecked families, a death and seemingly endless financial crises are challenges.
We combined Thanksgiving Eve with the Commemoration of Puritan hymn-writer Isaac Watts as this was the first time that Thanksgiving Eve had so coincided in eleven years.
Watts, as a Puritan, is fine lens through which to consider American Thanksgiving Day, and his ability to render praise in spite of poverty and ill health shines as example of faithfulness.
In addition to all the tradional Thanksgiving hymns we sang four Watts hymns, “Come, let us join our cheerful songs” (LSB 812), “Jesus shall reign” (LSB 832), “Before Jehovah’s awesome throne (LBW # 531) at the Offertory, and “O God, our help in ages past” (LSB 733) during the Distribution. It was particularly touching to watch our newest octogenarian receive our Lord’s body just as the words “time, like an ever-rolling stream....” were sung.
That is so excellent; it needs to be shared far and wide.
Thank you, sir.
Thanks Pastor. I am just now getting around to reading all my “pings”. This is one of the best ever!
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