Rev. Dr. Billy Burch
Thanksgiving is Really Great
Probably the least creative title I've ever placed on anything. It came out of a moment where I recounted the many Thanksgiving feasts in the past. Family comes together around the traditions of turkey, stuffing, cranberry, and pumpkin pie, laughter, catching up, football. The faint sound of serving spoons and silverware clanging over pots, pans, and serving dishes hovers over the entire day. It was a combination of those thoughts that made me say, "Thanksgiving is really great."
While Thanksgiving Day holds a special place in our lives, it is the noun 'thanksgiving' that makes this time of year really great. Giving thanks forces those who actually do so to pinpoint the good, not the general good, but the specific. It forces a list which includes gratitude for people, provisions, health, answered prayer. It pushes the agenda of joy, hope, peace, and love in a way that changes values. And that, the change of values, is the power of thanksgiving. Life moves fast. Calendars get full. Needs constantly surface. Pain lingers. But in the moment of thanksgiving, the lack, which tends to occupy far too much of our focus, gives way to the blessings, of which we realize are prolific.
I love the image of a cornucopia. Fall hues, autumn root vegetables, colorful corncobs, and a sprinkle of leaves which were once green and now turned red or yellow or orange, display a simple brilliance which characterizes Thanksgiving. The simplicity of a cornucopia and the fullness therein reminds us that the important things in life, I mean the truly important things, are not found in the abundance of wealth, but the abundance of blessing. It never takes long, once looking out the window, to give thanks for such beauty. Giving thanks for the simple changes our entire value system. It reminds us of many more things, and especially people, for which to be thankful. Think of how many times in Scripture Paul thanks God for a person. We would spend an entire day thanking God for the people He has brought into our lives at different junctures for different reasons. Maybe we should.
Studying for a sermon a few months back, I was struck by the sheer number of times Paul included the imperative to give thanks. The greek word for giving thanks is the same word from which we get eucharist. Communion, in many churches, is called the Eucharist. And for good reason. It is remembering with utmost thanks the Lord Jesus and the many provisions received from His bounteous grace. No clearer is this brought forth than in Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." Not only are we to live a life of thanks by representing Him in how we live, imitating the very life of Jesus, but we are to give thanks to God through Jesus. Simply put, we are able to converse with God, give Him true worship and thanks, because Jesus paved the way for that through the cross and resurrection.
The entire Bible encourages us to be thankful for all things at all times. Merely stumbling through the Psalms places you on passages where David, the assembly of Israelites, and even created things shout praises to God for the many good things He has done. Who hasn't at one time or another heard, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever (Psalm 107, 136, etc.)? He implores us to give thanks because it is a life altering habit. It will change our outlook in any and every circumstance. The Scripture even tells us to be thankful for trials! "Give thanks in all circumstances..." (I Thes. 5:17). A quick reading of Hebrews 12 builds the case even further. James 1:2 says to "...consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds..." The only way to do that is to lead with gratitude. For gratitude always gives way to appreciation. I think I should double down to make thanksgiving more of a daily habit in my prayers.
Anyway, my hope and prayer is that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, one that causes something deep in your soul to raise up, draw your gaze upwards, move your emotions to a place of serenity, and your heart to draw closer to others in a completely new way. All the while acknowledging that it is all from the gracious hand of our great God. Thanksgiving is really great.