Summary: Thanksgiving Sermon - Series A
Thanksgiving Eve November23,2005 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you this night to give you thanks for your many blessings upon us – for the gift of life, for all that sustains us from day to day, and especially for your gracious gift of redemption which we receive through our baptism and faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, inspire us to show our thankfulness in the way that we care for those among us, especially those in need. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
This evening, the occasion that brings us together to worship God has little to do with our Christian faith. It is not a religious holiday, in which we gather to remember and celebrate an event in the life of Christ, such as Christmas or Easter. It is not an occasion on the Church’s liturgical calendar in which we gather together to begin a spiritual journey of faith renewal, as we do on Ash Wednesday.
No, the occasion that brings us together this evening is a national holiday, which began in the colonial times of New England, as a harvest festival. In 1621, Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts first declared a day of thanksgiving and prayer to God for the harvest, which soon became a custom in the New England colonies.
However, following the revolution, an annual day of thanksgiving was then sanctioned by the federal government. Listen to the words of what George Washington used to proclaim this national holiday:
“Whereas, 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 implore his protection and favor;
Whereas, both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness!’
Now therefore, I do recommend next, to be devoted by the people of the states to the service of that great and glorious being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks…” End quote.
Thus, this national Day of Thanksgiving began, and over the years, it was adopted and observed by each of the states as a holiday. Yet over the years, especially the last twenty-five years, about all that is left of this day, set aside to give thanks to Almighty God and his providence, is that it is a national holiday – a day off of work. We don’t even acknowledge its original purpose inherent in its name. Thanksgiving Day has been replaced with the non-offensive title “Turkey Day.” After all, in today’s culture, the ACLU would probably sue George Washington for his use of such strongly religious rhetoric in proclaiming a national holiday.
Well, if I am to be politically correct, “Turkey Day” may be the occasion that has brought us together this evening. But I doubt that this is the reason that you are here. At least I hope not! I hope that we have come into this place of worship to do just what this building has been set aside for – to worship God, and to give him thanks for his many blessings upon us. For as Christians, who have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, who have experienced his redeeming grace and the forgiveness of our sins, we should not need an “occasion” to remind us to give thanks to God. It should be a natural part of our daily life!
Think about Gospel lesson for this evening. Luke tells us that as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he was about to enter a small village between the regions of Samaria and Galilee. There, Jesus was met by ten lepers, who stood their distance, and cried out for him to have mercy on them. We all know that leprosy is a highly contagious disease, and as a result these persons were expelled from their family and community, and required to live on the fringe of society, to keep their distance from all who might come into contact with them.
I’m sure that they led a miserable life as a result of their illness. I’m sure that they missed their family and friends and the ability to gather with them for a common meal and share in the fellowship of a holiday feast, which so many of us take for granted. They were no doubt forced to beg for morsels of food to be left at a distance, just to survive. It would not be the kind of life that any of us would like to live, although millions in this world are also forced to beg for daily sustenance.