When we look at the vast expanse of the universe, the myriads of stars, the earth within it which is exactly placed in it to shelter living creatures, the minute detail of cellular, atomic, subatomic existence, the fragile complexity of the human body, any person might feel awe, wonder, or curiosity.
But for thanksgiving one needs more than that. For thanksgiving, one needs to add a phrase which is not immediately evident: ‘For me.’
Certainly it would be utterly ridiculous to presume that I am the center of the universe. But Christians believe that all of this is a gift, a gift from God, and one of the intended recipients is ‘me.’ ‘Us’ as human beings, and ‘me’ as an individual. It is not presumptuous to think so, if we think of ourselves as intended by God.
It is because of this that believers can look at the world, at all things, and feel not only awe and wonder but thankfulness. And we express our thankfulness in song, in prayer, in word, in action.
I believe that God has created me together with all creatures. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul; eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock and all property, along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! I therefore owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
One of the most ancient ways for humankind to give thanks is by feasting. To feast is to receive with gladness that which has been given. It is done not alone but with others, because we never receive anything simply for ourselves alone.
To feast with God in mind, to feast believing that it is his pure, fatherly, goodness and mercy that has not only given the meal but everything leading up to it that has preserved us and protected us from last Thanksgiving to this, to feast like this is more than mere consumption, but is right feasting: is praise and rededication. It is what the Israelites were to do when bringing the first-fruits of the land. They were to remember who they were and whose they were.
So on our national feast, however our fellow citizens honor the day, we as Christians are to remember who we are and whose we are. We are Jesus Christ’s, in life and in death. And whether or not the next year brings prosperity, we feast in thanks, for we have his promise that he will be with us not only in good times, but in bad. Perhaps we will give thanks, not for good health and prosperity, but simply because his Word sustains us in adversity and hardship. And yet can this not be a greater thanksgiving? For Jesus came to dwell with us and will not abandon us if we do not prosper.
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and I pray that when you feast, you take time to remember who you are and whose you are, and receive the gifts of the world with gladness, because God means them for you. Amen