To have a national day set aside to simply give thanks to God is such a wonderful and honorable tradition to have. Even this strange year, or perhaps especially in this strange year, this day is needed. It is a reminder of the blessings that we have, a moment to step back appreciate the wonderful gifts of our God. The very first day of thanksgiving on the American continent was celebrate by the Pilgrims settlers after their first successful corn harvest back in the early 1600’s. Then at the conclusion to the American Revolution our first president George Washington called for a national day of thanksgiving and began his proclamation by saying, “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” The exact time and tradition of thanksgiving in this country has changed and morphed throughout the years but it still remains and for that I am very thankful.
Now, for Christians the act of giving thanks ought to be second nature. It is what we are about, what we simply do as the people of God. We give thanks. And so it comes as no shock to us when Paul writes to Timothy and says to him, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in positions,, that we may lead a peaceful and quite life, godly and dignified in every way.” But do you ever stop to wonder why? Why would Paul exhort the children of God to give thanks? Is it necessary for our salvation? Is it a condition of our faith? Is it just something we ought to do to prove our faithfulness?
I don’t think so. I think Paul’s exhortation that we pray and intercede and give thanks is the encouragement to simply live as the people of God. I think of it like this, growing up my parents would have me say prayers. At night before we went to bed, we would say a prayer. It wasn’t big and complex it was simple and clear, we followed an old tradition, folding our hands and closing our eyes we would repeat after our mom or dad and say, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Remember that? And of course, there was sitting down for a meal and our family always said grace, “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let they gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” These practices set in the patterns and habits of giving thanks, of being reminded that God has provided something for which we ought to give thanks. In so doing they pull us out of the immediate consumerism of our day to day life to realize that we have a God that continues to care, continues to feed, and strengthen and nourish his children.
So, your take our current situation. You could rattle of and endless list of things to not give thanks for. A pandemic, a failing political system, a horrible election year, distrust of media and elected officials, unemployment, underemployment, hatred and abuse, division and depression, loneliness, and longing. There are broken and strained families and relationships, uncertain futures and health scares that keep us fearful. And yet, for us here today, we gather not to complain, not to clutch our pearls and cry out, “Woe is me.” No, we gather to give thanks. We thank God for this country for our those in high position, we pray for them and for our nation as a whole. Just as my parents taught me to pray as a small child so we pray together now.
Now as a child I didn’t pray because I necessarily wanted to go to bed, in fact I distinctly remember not wanting to go to bed. And I prayed for my meal even if it was that terrible stew mom made. But what it taught me was to see the hand of God at work in it all, to know and remember that he continues to care for me. So it is with us today. To pray, to give thanks to God is to lift our heads a little higher, to look beyond the nightly news and disaster headlines and remember that you have a God that has not left you alone. He continues to call you his own, to love and forgive you right through the whole thing.
As we stop then to give thanks, we fortunate to remember, as George Washington said, “The providence of Almighty God.” He continues to bless us and care for us, his will has not been thwarted by any of our temporal problems. War and pestilence and earthquake will not stop our God. And to so today we are joyfully reminded of just what our God continues to seek out, continue sot accomplish in our midst. For it is his desire that “all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” And look at that. Here we are, beings saved and coming to the knowledge of his truth. All thanks be to God. Amen.