This weekend, we celebrate Thanksgiving. For many, it’s an opportunity to gather with family – a widely-touted excuse to consume remarkable amounts of turkey. For others, it’s a time to go to church (not as popular as Christmas and Easter, but close). To be sure, there are some who will sit down to dinner this weekend and pray before they eat who are not usually pray-ers before they are eaters. But heaven rejoices when anyone talks to God, for whatever reason!
For those of us who follow Jesus, Thanksgiving is another Sunday in the year, but one that holds special significance especially for those with an agricultural background. What we call “Thanksgiving” is really “Harvest Thanksgiving” – an opportunity to praise God for the crops yielded in the summer just past.
Do we often think about why we are thankful? The simple answer, I suppose, would be that we are thankful for all that God provides. After all, the old hymn says
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above;
So thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.
We gather at Thanksgiving to thank the Lord. But that answers why we celebrate Thanksgiving – not why we are thankful!
Here’s a hint: God is the object of our thanks, but he is also the source. It is through God and in Christ Jesus that we are able to be thankful. Colossians 3.17 says, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (NLT). We are thankful to God, through Jesus. It is through Jesus that true thanksgiving is offered to God.
Thus it’s possible for anybody to be thankful; after all, it’s part of the array of manners we are taught as children (hopefully!). However, those who are in Christ are best able to thank the Father. Why? Well, we who have been rescued from slavery to sin are able to look back on the evil behind us (read Martin Luther’s “Fourteen Consolations” to go deeper on this). When we see what we have been, and see what God is making us into now, we have greater cause to be thankful – quite apart from the bounty of food we enjoy.
There are many blessings for which to be thankful. The greatest of these is our relationship with God, which matters for eternity.
I’m especially thankful that I get to share my relationship with God with my church family at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton. The past week-and-a-bit have proven to be a most interesting adventure, as some unique and thoughtful (and unexpected!) gift has shown up at my door each day since October 1 – to celebrate Clergy Appreciation Month (a story about this can be found here). Like all thanksgiving, my thanks in this context are rooted in grace. We do nothing to earn God’s love, our salvation, or even a bountiful harvest! Likewise, I have done nothing to earn the appreciation of the people among whom I serve. That’s why, through Jesus, I am humbled in grace to be able to say to God, and to these wonderful people, “Thanks.”