Summary: Today's Sermon is about our need to be thankful, and give thanks, especially in this season of Christmas from the proposition that Thanksgiving always precedes Christmas. It then looks at three principles of how to develop a heart of thanksgiving and how Jesus possessed each.
The Giving of Christmas
“Christmas is for Thanks-Giving”
With Thanksgiving over and Christmas right around the corner, we find ourselves in the middle of two of our countries most iconic holidays, where the giving of thanks is front and center, I’d like to take some time and do a two-part series on the topic of giving.
Lizzie Bolden was the oldest person in the world when she died in 2006. She was 116 years old and according to the family, she had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great grandchildren, 220 great-great-great grandchildren, and 75 great-great-great-great grandchildren.
When I see stories of people living such long lives, I wonder what causes these people to have such longevity? Part of it is wrapped up in their genes or our DNA, but if we boiled down all the characteristics these people possessed, thankfulness and forgiveness would be at the top of the list. And medical reports and studies support this proposition.
Author of several books on aging, Eugene Bianchi said, “One of the common factors of those who are thriving in their senior years is their ability to live with gratitude.” He said that they are able to receive the small and large gifts as blessings that evoke thankfulness. And while there are losses and disappointments, even tragedy, each of these seniors seemed to have the ability to learn from them, rather than being destroyed by them.
Bianchi cites one man in his 90’s who admits that his wife’s frail health makes this the most difficult season of his life. Yet, this man expresses thankfulness at simply having the gift of already having lived a long life saying, “I am swimming in a sea of gratefulness.”
Other studies talk about forgiveness where doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists say that people who forgive are healthier than people who do not forgive. Researchers have also found evidence stating that if someone has a heart of thanksgiving, it adds longevity and depth to their life.
What these reports are saying is that forgiveness and thankfulness are good for us, which is something that God, through His word, has been saying all along. But then why haven’t we been getting this message out there? Why does it take secular studies to tell the world what God has given to the church to proclaim?
What it seems like is that non-Christians are espousing biblical truths and living their lives by them, while Christians and the church talk and live like non-believers.
But this is nothing new. When God gave His word and commandments to the children of Israel, they did a really good job at following them at first, but soon they became jaded where God’s word and commandments became a religious thing, it became a religion. They spoke biblically, but lived un-biblically.
And we see much they same thing in the Christian church. Christianity is now more about religion, rules and regulations, than it is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We tend to preach one thing, but do another.
Concerning this phenonium God said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
What it seems like is that God is raising up non-believers and secular voices in order to shake up the church. There’s a whole movement out there talking about biblical themes like integrity, forgiveness, thanksgiving, and helping the poor, but they are being espoused by non-Christians.
And I believe that this is a wakeup call for the church to start living what we say we believe. In fact, God is working the same way today as He did in the past. When the children of Israel wouldn’t listen, God would raise up a nation to bring them into subjection, or to take them captive until they cried out and returned to God’s way and God’s word.
And so, as we approach this time of Christmas let’s be a thankful and forgiving people.
Let’s begin then in our time together with this whole idea of thanksgiving being an essential part of our lives and the lives of those around us. The reason is because there are going to be events that take place that we can’t control, but the giving of thanks and being thankful will help us and others get through them.
This is where being thankful in our prayer life comes in.
Think of it like our Thanksgiving Day meal. While cooking the food we need to season it. If the seasoning isn’t applied, then for the most part there is no taste. But when we add seasoning, it kicks the meal up a notch or two, where it explodes in our mouth and creates a sensation that makes our mouths water.
And this is the same for prayer. There is seasoning that God says we’re to add to our prayers, and that’s the ingredient of thanksgiving. The Bible says that thanksgiving is part of the recipe for our prayer life with God.