I remember getting one the greatest gifts ever when I was 8 years old. It was a Star Wars laser game. It came with a real laser gun and a motorized spinning wheel of storm trooper targets. I could not believe it when I saw it. I ripped open the box and started putting it together. I cannot remember if I even said, “Thanks,” but I knew my parents were pretty happy with my response. As a parent, nothing gives me more joy than to see my kids play and use presents I get them. I do not need any elaborate thanks. Or, another example is when my wife makes her usual wonderful meals, nothing thrills her more than the guests gobbling it down.
There is no better way to show our thankfulness for a gift than to use it and brag about it to others! Forget the formal appreciation letter or ceremonial, “Thank you Aunt Julie,” watching someone enjoy their gift and telling others about it is thanks enough. What cook does not love it when his guests scarf down their meal and ask for seconds!
So, it is with God’s gifts. There is nothing wrong with thanking God in your prayers and music, of course. But I bet it delights Him even more when we scarf-down the gifts of His Word, His forgiveness, and His eternal life. What better way to give thanks to God than receiving Christ’s body and blood which comes directly from the cross, covering your sins and failures every time it is offered! This is, after all, more the meal of life! What brings more delight to God’s ears than people returning to Him in repentance and hearing, “It is finished,” from Jesus through the preacher’s message. What better way to thank God for His Word than moms and dads reading Scripture at home to their kids or taking advantage of God’s promises in prayers of requests and needs.
Like a little girl who brags about her Christmas presents to her classmates, what better evangelism is there than neighbors telling neighbors how God loves them in Jesus Christ! Not because they were told to grow the church, but because they cannot shut-up about it.
Too often, we preachers want to make the Thanksgiving sermon into a mandate to share with others. Of course, that is what Christians are called to do, but should this really the center of the message: making people feel guilty for what God has given them? From Thanksgiving to Christmas, pastors seem to feel the need to skip the meal and go right to the food pantry. I have heard of families who replace presents on Christmas with making their kids donate stuff to charity. Talk about turning grace into burdens! First and foremost, let us marvel at the gift we have in Jesus. The more people realize they have been freely given everything in Christ, the more they will relax their hearts and hands in service to others.
So, when you have the luxury of enjoying a big meal at grandmas, eat it up! There is plenty of time to serve your neighbor. When you have the fortune of being able to receive God’s gifts in His Word and Sacraments, gobble them up. He loves to hear you ask for more.