Summary: Urges us to be thankful, even in the midst of a tragic time (especially in the aftermath of 9/11)
"Take inventory of your life: a Thanksgiving sermon."
November 18th, 2001
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
During my college and high school days I worked at Toys R Us. Usually when I tell people that fact they think that working at Toys R Us must have been really cool. Folks usually have the idea that working at a toy store is like working in Santa’s workshop. They have visions of us playing with the toys, riding up and down the aisles on scooters, wearing dress-up costumes, and building giant Lego cities. Let me remove that notion from your mind; working there was anything but fun, especially during Christmas. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what you’re selling in a store, it’s all boxes and price tags, whether you are selling car batteries or Matchbox cars. Christmas was a particularly bad time to be working there, if you can imagine. People can get pretty ugly when faced with the realization that they might not be able to get the Cabbage Patch Kid, Nintendo, or Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger. I’ve literally seen grown women fighting each other for a toy: it’s an ugly sight. But still, no matter how bad the Christmas season might get, there was a worse time to be working there. Right after Christmas came "Return Time" when those same ladies would come back, furious that the Cabbage Patch kid was missing an arm. But even that wasn’t the worst time. The worst time, by far, was inventory week. Imagine a tornado going through a store, scattering merchandise in its wake. Now, imagine trying to go into the store after the storm and trying to identify and count each item in the store down to the last baseball card. That’s what inventory is like at Toys R Us, two weeks after Christmas. But it had to be done, because taking inventory is one of the most crucial things done in a store each year.
Why do stores take inventory? Because after a hectic year of sales things can get pretty confused. The people who add up the value of the merchandise in the store need to know exactly how much the store has on its shelves. In the midst of the daily shuffle of a store it is awfully easy to look track of how much you have. So, a week is taken where every employee in the store is charged with the task of stopping to take count of all the merchandise in the store. Every year you have to stop and take inventory of what assets you have.
This is exactly what we are doing this week. Our lives are busy and hectic; some of us feel like we are running a toy store in December all year. It’s hard to keep track of where we are in life with all of the coming and going that we do. We can lose sight of what assets we have in life. We need to take time at least once a year to take inventory of our life and ask ourselves, "What blessings have I been given and what am I doing with them?" We need to take time to stop and count the things in our life that have been given to us instead of complaining about the things that we don’t have. Whenever we feel the need to indulge in whining or self-pity we should stop and count the blessings in our life. This is what Thanksgiving is all about: taking an inventory of our life.
Thanksgiving should not just be a shallow time of giving generic thanks to God for the stuff that we possess. This isn’t just a time to nod our heads towards heaven in a cursory recognition that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes we inhabit, and the possessions we own come from the hand of God. Instead, we need to sit down and do some talking to ourselves about all of the gifts and opportunities and challenges that God has given to each one of us. Like the poem says, "Count your blessings one by one, and you might be surprised at what the Lord has done."
This year might seem like a bad time for Thanksgiving. We have suffered a terrible blow as a nation. We have lost a great number of fellow citizens. Our security has been shaken, our anger has been provoked, our peace has been shattered, our fears have been awakened. As we speak we have soldiers at war and we have enemies planning our demise. The basic things that we take for granted have been compromised. Our economy is in shambles and locally we have seen a lot of people lose their jobs, perhaps even some here today. A lot of people have seen their investments and their retirement plans lose a lot of money. Many of us here today have lost loved ones or been faced with illnesses and injury. These hardships that all of us are facing to some degree or another might seem to take some of the joy out of Thanksgiving.