Summary: This sermon was written specifically to be followed by an altar call and the Lord’s Supper
“In 1621, after a hard and devastating first year in the New World the Pilgrim’s Fall harvest was very successful and plentiful. There was corn, fruits, vegetables, along with fish which was packed in salt, and meat that was smoke cured over fires. They found they had enough food to put away for the winter.
The Pilgrims had beaten the odds. They built homes in the wilderness, they raised enough crops to keep them alive during the long coming winter, and they were at peace with their Indian neighbors. Their Governor, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving that was to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native American Indians.
The custom of an annually celebrated thanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued through the years. During the American Revolution (late 1770’s) a day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress.
In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. By the middle of the 19th century many other states also celebrated a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of thanksgiving. Since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, usually designating the fourth Thursday of each November as the holiday.”
(history of Thanksgiving copied from www.holidays.net/thanksgiving/story.htm)
Now I’ve stated in the past that I do not preach ‘theme sermons’. Christmas and Easter, of course, deserve special sermons commemorating our Lord’s birth and certainly, His death and resurrection. Otherwise, the holidays and special days set aside by society do not deserve recognition from the pulpit. The task of the preacher is to illuminate the word of God; not “Hallmark’s” calendar.
But I wanted to share this brief history of the Thanksgiving celebration with you this morning, to contrast its origins with what has become of that celebration in our present day.
In large and increasing circles, the word ‘thanksgiving’ is hardly even used anymore. It’s “Turkey Day”, at school, on the news, in the work place, in the stores. Unless there are small children in the household, who come home from school or church with cutouts of chubby pilgrims and badly colored Indians accompanying a one page history lesson, most people can breeze through Thanksgiving Day anymore without having to give it’s original purpose even a passing thought.
It’s a day of overeating, prefaced and post-scripted by shameless bragging about overeating; football, rented movies; and these are the best parts. In many households Thanksgiving Day inevitably means enduring the company of relatives one hopes only to see one day per year, old family squabbles dredged up from the muck of a history never confronted properly and put to rest, drunkenness by mid afternoon, and followed by a Friday of antacids, ibuprofen and cold turkey sandwiches.
Now, I’m not trying to bum anyone out here. And I don’t wish to put a damper on anyone’s holiday. I hope everyone here has a very wonderful Thanksgiving celebration this year; and I hope that as you celebrate you will give sincere thanks to our God for His fathomless bounty. I hope you will eat without guilt, and digest without discomfort. I hope you will thoroughly enjoy your company, whether it be family or friends, and whether you watch football, or play board games, or simply take an afternoon nap after the table has been cleared and the kids have all run off to play, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.
The reason I’ve spent all of this time talking about this up-coming celebration, is because it is a day that, with all it’s other trappings, primarily centers around the stomach.
And, not so coincidentally, that is the problem of these very excited folks in John chapter 6.
Let’s glance back for just a minute and think about the events that immediately precede the verses of our study today.
Jesus has miraculously fed the five thousand. We’re all familiar with that story; some more than others. If you’ve been in the church since childhood, you heard it at least once a year in Sunday School. If you came to the Lord as an adult, you’ve surely heard at least one sermon, or read at least one article about it in one of the many Christian periodicals available. Maybe you’ve never heard of the account except to see a dramatization of it in one of the movies that has been made about the life of Jesus.
He has sat down with His disciples on a country hillside. The people are gathering there from villages all around, and I want you to note that in verse 2 of chapter six, John specifically states that they followed Him there because of the signs they had seen Him performing, particularly in the healing of the sick.
Jesus looks up, and seeing this great multitude He is characteristically sensitive to their immediate need. In His great compassion He takes the few loaves and fishes being carried there by a small boy, and after blessing the food He begins to distribute it to the multitude and miraculously feeds five thousand men, along with the women and children who were there.