Summary: Thanksgiving message preached at National Baptist Memorial Church, Washington, DC. The Psalmist gives us insight to value the gifts of salvation, deliverance, life, and quiet.
Quickly now, how many more shopping days until Christmas? I am not sure either, but I am confident that by the end of this week the stores will be reminding us that we have only a limited amount of time to sacrifice at the Temple of Target or the Shrine of Sears. How many of you, this coming Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with your bellies full of turkey and trimmings, will waddle into the canyons of consumer consumption known as shopping malls, and there cast your all upon the altar of sales?
Well, I will not be there. Don’t look for me. I do not participate in shop ‘til you drop. But I can’t exactly be self-righteous about that, because my wife and I do most of our Christmas shopping through catalogs, and, since every catalog you order from sells your name to a host of other catalogs, when we shop, it is the poor postman who drops!
It’s about time, isn’t it, to start the Christmas gift madness? But you know, I learned a long time ago that not every gift I give will be received with equal enthusiasm. Those to whom I give something will react in different ways – some are genuinely thrilled, some fake enthusiasm,, and others – well, when you read their faces, those faces say, “What made you think I’d want THAT?”. Not every gift is received with equal enthusiasm.
And sometimes that is not because the gift I give is a poor choice. Sometimes that is because the recipient does not yet have the maturity or the insight to appreciate the value of the gift. Sometimes gifts are not received, hearts are not thankful, because we do not recognize just how good a gift we have received.
Years ago, one Christmas, my brother, who is six years younger than I, crossed that delicate line from being a child to becoming a young man. In other words, folks gave him fewer toys and more practical stuff. I remember watching Bob open his gifts that year – a chemistry set – YAY!; a pair of skates – WOW!; a wristwatch – ALL RIGHT!; but then, a box of pajamas, socks, and underwear, which he tossed aside with a blecch look and the quick question, “What else is there?”. Our family laughed about that for years and at every Christmas wondered if Bob would ever become grateful for the unending line of pajamas, socks, and underwear that are the fate of young men! I don’t think he ever really managed to show much enthusiasm for pajamas, socks, and underwear. Would you?
But then, again, I submit to you that if we are not grateful for pajamas, socks, and underwear, but prefer the glitz and glamor stuff, that is because we do not have the maturity or the insight to know that what we have been given is valuable and useful. So many things doesn’t look all that glamorous; but they are well worth our thanks.
In just that way the gifts of God come. Our thanksgiving may be muted, simply because we lack the spiritual maturity, we don’t have the insight, to understand just how profoundly God has gifted us. Who of us gets up every morning and thanks God for a new day? Some do, but I suspect most of us do not. Who of us lies down at night and thanks the Lord for a day of blessing and victory? Some no doubt do, but I suspect many of us, if we reflect on the day at all, are full of recriminations about the mistakes we made or we are anxious about all the things we didn’t accomplish. Who of us thanks God for all the ordinary gifts He gives us? And if we do not, may it not be that the issue is that we do not have the maturity or the insight to appreciate them for what they are? Pajamas, socks, and underwear, ho-hum?