It is Thanksgiving Eve, so let’s talk about Christmas, shall we?
There is a scene in Charles Dickens The Christmas Carol, in which the ghost of Christmas Present brings Ebenezer Scrooge to the house of his dedicated yet underappreciated employee Bob Cratchet.
Mind you, this was after being in the streets downtown and in the house of his nephew Fred, where people were celebrating Christmas in the great pomp and pageantry that many associate with the day. And after those scenes downtown and at Fred’s, the Ghost of Christmas Present brings Scrooge to a rather sad looking house, in a poorer section of town.
Scrooge, in his normal gruff tone, after seeing the wonderful celebrations elsewhere, and perhaps starting to be tempted by the lure of Christmas, wonders why on earth anyone would gather here in this unsightly shack in order to celebrate the most blessed day of Christmas.
The Ghost of Christmas Present responds in a simple, yet matter of fact way, that it is Christmas here as well.
Yes, even here, in the home of Scrooge’s poorly paid employee; yes even here, in a poor section of town; yes, even here where Scrooge and many other of the well to do types would never set foot; yes, even here it is Christmas as well. Even here, the celebration of the Savior’s birth touches the hearts of mankind.
I mention this, because it is easy to forget that Thanksgiving reaches into even the deepest parts of society, where we might think that there would be very little to be thankful for.
The news has depicted much chaos the past few nights, particularly in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri; where the traditional St. Louis Thanksgiving Day parade was canceled due to the unrest. What are they giving thanks for today?
Countless men and women are stationed around the world, many in areas that are very dangerous due to war and rumors of war; what do they have to give thanks for today?
Many will gather around tables tomorrow and notice that one chair is conspicuously empty; what will they give thanks for?
Many will look at bank statements compared to a pile of overdue bills on Monday; what are they going to give thanks for?
Others will look at a mountain of possessions and accumulation, and wonder what to do with it all; and one might ask, what will they give thanks for?
And yet the revised words of the Ghost of Christmas Present ring in our ears: It is Thanksgiving here too.
It is Thanksgiving in Ferguson, Missouri; just as it is Thanksgiving on the streets of every city in America this 4th Thursday in November. They gather in Thanksgiving to God that they live in a country where protesting is legal, and a country where the government is restrained in its response to those protests, and even give thanks that this is still a nation of rules and laws.
It is Thanksgiving on the American bases and battleships around the world today; just as it is Thanksgiving in the towns and communities here in the states. They gather in Thanksgiving to God for protection from harm and danger thus far; gather in Thanksgiving to God for the peace that they bring just by their presence; gather in Thanksgiving to God that both loved ones and strangers back home pray for them, and await their return in safety.
It is Thanksgiving in those homes that have a conspicuously empty chair; just as it was Thanksgiving last year and the many years before that. They gather in Thanksgiving to God for the memories that are still treasured and shared, and gather in Thanksgiving to God that the family continues to grow in other ways through marriages and births.
It is Thanksgiving in those homes that compare bank statements and bills. They gather in Thanksgiving to God for the opportunities that are before them; they gather in Thanksgiving to God that out of His grace and mercy, God will provide for them out of His abundance, and in His own timing.
It is Thanksgiving for those who look at their possessions and wonder what they will ever do with it all. They gather in Thanksgiving to God that the Lord has so abundantly blessed them with more than they could have ever hoped. They gather in Thanksgiving to God that they can now share with those who are in need.
It is Thanksgiving in those places, just as it is Thanksgiving in your own place, just as it is Thanksgiving in every place tomorrow. The things we give thanks for are many and various, and sometimes the outsider plopped down outside the window may not always recognize that for which we give thanks to God for; but we do so anyway, for these things, whatever they may be, are blessings from the Lord.
There is however one thing that we all give thanks for; one thing that we do share in common in our litanies of thanks this Thanksgiving Day.
I started this out by saying that on this Thanksgiving we were going to talk about Christmas; and more than a few of you may have determined that this was influenced by a marketing ploy in our culture that has turned Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas into one big three month long non-stop holiday celebration.
But that is not the case at all.
For on Thanksgiving, and every day, we give thanks for the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. We give thanks for this salvation that finds its roots in Christmas, when Christ Jesus took on our flesh and came into the world so that He might live and die for our sins, and the sins of all people, so that we might have forgiveness, life and salvation.
We gather together in Thanksgiving for Christ Jesus.
That is where Thanksgiving finds its roots; not in Pilgrims and Indians or in Presidential proclamations, but in the recognition that God the Father provided all of this out of His goodness and mercy, most especially providing His Son as the perfect sacrifice for us.
It is Thanksgiving here to, in the Church, where we gather and give thanks for this one gift that transcends all other gifts. A gift that offers peace to the streets of Ferguson; a gift that offers protection to bases and battleships the world over; a gift that gives hope to those who are lonely or depressed; a gift that you remind yourself of each and every day.
It is Thanksgiving here to; for the goodness and mercy of God reaches into the deepest parts of society, reaching even the hearts of those who one would otherwise assume that there is nothing to give thanks for.
But, there is always something to give thanks for; for there is always Jesus to give thanks for. Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord for the gifts that He so freely bestows upon us this day and every day.