This is the sermon I preached for Thanksgiving Eve.
Read Psalm 65
In the Name of Jesus! AMEN!
Thanksgiving is not your typical Church holiday. While there is no shortage of places in Scripture where people can be found giving thanks, it is normally in response to something that has just happened. And the places where we do see people giving thanks, it is for what we would consider to be the big things in life: victory in battle, the coming to power of a new king, a wedding, the birth of a child, or the healing from disease.
So while we do see recorded in Scripture people giving thanks for the big things, there are far fewer mentions of people giving thanks for the somewhat more mundane things in life. There are no sacrifices offered in the Old Testament for a pair of shoes, or for a roof over one’s head, or for the ability to hear, see, taste, touch and smell.
There are definitely reminders that God is the provider of not just the big things, but also of those mundane things; but there is no special day set aside for the express purpose of giving thanks for either the big things or the mundane things. When there was something to give thanks for, you just did; no need to wait for a certain day to do it on.
And so Thanksgiving is not your typical Church holiday, it is by its very definition a national holiday; and yet despite its status as a national holiday, it fits in very well with what the Church believes, teaches and confesses.
To understand this however, we must look ahead to what many will be doing this weekend, and then the results of this weekend that are generally found somewhere between this weekend and Christmas Day.
For, when those bags are unpacked, or when those gifts are opened, the question on everyone’s lips will be: where did you buy that?
Or maybe you have seen this question posed in its other forms: where did you get that recipe; where did you learn to do that; where did you come up with that idea? All of these questions of origin are as much a holiday tradition as pilgrims and Santa Claus.
But these question are not holiday specific; they are in fact year round questions. Anytime someone has something of interest, whether it is so amazing that you must go and purchase your own; or because it is so awful that you must make sure that you never set foot near the store it came from, the question will be posed: where did you find that?
And the end of every question demands an answer: the item came from this store or that one. The recipe came from a cookbook or a relative. The idea came from the internet. The knowledge came from a book or a class.
In our modern day culture, the history of even the smallest idea or product must be traceable all the way back to its conception, and even beyond that. And so the questions continue: who wrote the recipe; what county was the shirt made in; and who are your sources of that information.
And you can do the research, you can answer the questions to the best of your ability, you can provide all the information that others are seeking in an effort to satisfy their curiosity; or you can take a different approach.
For the source of that clothing, that recipe, that food, that toy, that gadget, that item is ultimately not found on a sticker or on a tag; nor is it even found by tracing a serial number.
All of these things are First Article gifts. They are the things which we confess in the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed that God has given to us in order to sustain life on this earth.
For when you confess that you believe in ‘God the Father Almighty; maker of heaven and earth’, you are not just confessing that God made what is listed in Genesis 1 and 2, you are also confessing that God is the source, the origin, the maker, of all of those things that you now enjoy and give thanks for in this earthly life.
God is the maker of that computer. God is the author of that book. God is the inventor of that piece of machinery. God is the one who conceived of that idea that you have for that new project.
The Psalmist declares this to be the truth: all things are from God.
The wonders of creation are a result of the might of God’s arms. The fruits that the creation then yields forth are also a gift from God’s bounty.
And this is true of all people and places everywhere. Even those places that are the farthest from our own are provided for and sustained out of God’s great goodness and mercy.
Thanksgiving, a national holiday in origin, is at its very heart a celebration of First Article gifts. For tomorrow, when you are gathered together, and you recollect either privately or out loud those things for which you are thankful, you do not need to search the depths of your mind to think of something, you merely need to recite the meaning to the First Article as found in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism:
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses and still takes care of them.
He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.
All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.
We often lament how the state needs to follow the example of the Church; well on Thanksgiving the Church follows the lead of the state in taking a moment to give thanks for those seemingly mundane things of life. And unlike the state which tries to follow the Church in things that are not natural to the state; Thanksgiving comes naturally to the Church; because it is what we believe, teach and confess year round.
I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth is not a confession that you make once a year, it is your daily confession from the moment you get up in the morning until the moment you go to bed at night. You daily believe, teach and confess that all things both great and small, extravagant and mundane, find their origin in God the Father.
And when you make that confession, then the gifts and blessings of the Second Article flow forth naturally as well. For when you confess that God the Father has provided you everything that you need for this earthly life, then it naturally follows that God the Father would also provide for what you need in the life to come in a Savior, who would suffer and die for your sake, so that you might have forgiveness, life and salvation.
Thanksgiving may be a national holiday, but it fits perfectly in with what the Church believes, teaches and confesses. And when that happens, it can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving, like all of those feasts and festivals that fill the Church’s own calendar, is pointing us to Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! AMEN!