Psa 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psa 136:2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psa 136:3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:5 to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Psa 136:6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American Holiday. Canada has one, but it was weeks ago. Only in America is tomorrow a day to give thanks. The turkey and cranberries and stuffing and pie and all the other fixin’s is just ours. No one else. It’s not a church holiday. And yet we gather at the church.
It’s become popular in recent years to give thanks each day of November for something different, or to go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and each person say what they are thankful for. To actually spend time recognizing, not only that we are thankful, but specifically we are thankful for this or that thing. Customs arise in this civil holiday. Unlike Christmas, or Easter, we don’t even have service of the day of. We have it the night before, so it doesn’t interfere with the timing of the food prep. But then, it’s not really a church holiday. And from the perspective of the church, the evening before is always the start of the next day. Liturgically, Christmas begins at Sundown of Christmas Eve – why we have the services on Christmas eve.
So today, we could say that liturgically, if not astronomically, it’s already tomorrow, and so we actually are gathering on Thursday.
But again, this isn’t a church holiday, so perhaps it’s cheating to meet the night before.
So why do we gather?
Because if one is giving thanks, there must be someone to give thanks to. Does it work to say, “I’m thankful that the random forces of the universe worked together to bring about reality as I perceive it?” You could, but why bother?
It used to be that gifts always merited thank you cards. But the cards were sent to someone. You didn’t just say, “Thanks for the socks.” And then post the card on your own wall.” You said, “Thanks for the socks, Aunt Muriel.” And then you sent the card to Aunt Muriel.
So, if we are giving thanks for another year of life, another year of bounty, another year of blessings from the Lord, it’s only right that we gather to give thanks to our Heavenly Father. He is the source of it all. “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” Saint Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Prayers of Thanksgiving. That is why we are gathered here. To spend a few moments – before the craziness of the relatives arriving, and the football games, and the Black Friday sales, giving thanks to God for what he has done.
It’s kind of strange, in a world where the government is separated from the church, that the church comes together at the call of our government to give thanks to God. And yet, it is what we do. The church is the church at prayer. The people of the church are a people who give thanks to God. And so, when the proclamation is issued by our leaders calling from prayers of thanksgiving, the church is the first to say, “Let’s Go”. It’s what we do and who we are. So, we gather at the drop of a hat to hear the word and give thanks. We are glad to do so. We pray for our elected leaders and give thanks for them – and yes, that includes when we disagree with their policies and actions. We still pray for them, because God has given us this land as a heritage, and God has placed our leaders over us to rule. And so we pray that they would be given wisdom, we pray that they would make God-pleasing decisions, and we give thanks for them. Remember, when St. Paul wrote his epistles, the kings and all those in authority were generally hostile to the Gospel. So why would he say give thanks for those who persecute us?
Because they are placed there to keep order. And even when they go astray from God’s word, he has still placed them there. And if we don’t understand why that is, we are still to give thanks for his great mercy. And when we look at the bounty our Land has enjoyed, and the freedom we have to worship as we choose, we have even more cause to give thanks for all the benefits our Lord has given – especially for kings and all in authority.
We have so many reasons to give thanks. Of course, we could look on the dark side of things, and often we do. We have advanced healthcare, that is expensive. We have bountiful food at the stores, that we can’t eat because of dietary restrictions. We have peace, but who knows how long it will last. We have stuff that needs repairs. We have jobs we don’t like, relatives we can’t stand to spend too much time with, and just in case we haven’t whined enough, we have football teams that lose too many games. It’s so easy to complain.
Adam said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me gave me the fruit and I ate…” It’s the curse of Eden to complain about the very things God gives as a blessing..
That’s why it’s kind of nice that Thanksgiving comes right before Advent – preparing for the coming of the King. The birth of our Lord is so very important. God responds to all the complaining with the greatest gift of all – the infant born in the manger. Good news of great joy which is for all the people.
Of course, it’s possible to ignore, to downplay, to whine about this one too.
But this gift, Jesus, came into the world to take away the sin. Even the sin of our own shallow thankfulness.
But then, today isn’t a day to complain about how much we don’t give thanks. Because that turns Thanksgiving day back on ourselves. Oh, if only I were more thankful. Well, give thanks for the blessings God has given. That’s why we gather.
Thanksgiving is a time to remember the wonderful gifts God has given. To give thanks for all of them, for the relatives that annoy, the jobs that are difficult, the stuff that we take for granted. Even the salvation accomplished for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. And so, we stop and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his love endures forever.” And with that statement, spoken in the context of God’s great mercy and love in creating, preserving, redeeming and sanctifying us, what more is there to say, but: