Thanksgiving Message by Pastor Maria-Rosa Craig

November 23, 2008 · Print This Article


The Word

Luke 17:11-19


This is the happy time of the year where members of families who live scattered at the four corners of the United States travel to come together for Thanksgiving.  During Thanksgiving week, bountiful menus are planed with the famous turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry jam, and pumpkin pie.  The chef of the house, i.e. Pastor Bob, with much love and pride begins the preparation and cooking of exquisite family recipes.  Lavish tables are set displaying the best china, crystal glasses, and silverware.  Even relax clothing attires are often traded for dressier outfits just for that event.  All these extensive preparations culminate on the day of Thanksgiving when family and friends gather around the abundant table to give thanks.  As this wonderful family holiday takes place, it is a good time to ponder on the essence of the meaning of Thanksgiving Day.  But to understand the essence of its meaning, we must first talk about the origin and evolution of this holiday.   


Thanksgiving began on a day of fasting and prayer.  American history tells that it originated in 1621 when the English Pilgrims founders of a colony of Plymouth had a celebration with Native Americans who brought gifts of food as a way of showing friendship.  But there is no evidence that the participants of this feast thought of it as a thanksgiving celebration.  However, two years later, as these Christian Pilgrims had a day of fasting and prayer to end a period of drought, this day became a day of giving thanks to God because rains came during their prayers.  Two centuries later, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be a day of thanksgiving and praise to God for all of His blessings in the midst of the Civil War.  With time this day became a home and family holiday where thanks were given to the Lord for all His favors.


 During the 20th century, new secular Thanksgiving traditions emerged.  For example, the day after Thanksgiving gradually became known as the first day of the Christmas shopping season.  Also, as football became popular, teams in the NFL established the tradition of playing nationally televised games on Thanksgiving afternoon.  And today, the period from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day is collectively referred to as the holiday season.  To the football fans, like my husband, and the early Christmas shoppers I will say that most of these new Thanksgiving traditions have nothing wrong within themselves except that they tend to slowly and subtly erode at the essence of what Thanksgiving should be about.  And isn’t this the way Satan always work?  He slowly, subtly, and persistently works at destroying Christian morals, values, and beliefs.    


Today as we see the United States loosing the Christian values on which it was founded and increasingly becoming a secular nation, it is not the time to forget the real meaning of important holidays that celebrate our God such as Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving Day is NOT about us, it is NOT about thanking each other for each other, and it is NOT about thanking Buddha, Allah, or a “higher power.”  Thanksgiving Day is simply about thanking the One and only living God, our God, for His endless love, His gift of grace, His daily renewed mercies, His unfailing protection, and His abundant blessings.


Ingratitude to God’s blessings is openly seen in many stories of the Bible.   The story of the healing of ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19 gives us a good example of such ingratitude. In this story, as Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He came across ten men who were lepers.  In those times, leprosy was a shameful disease and lepers were considered unclean and were cast off from society.   These ten men cried out to Jesus asking Him for healing.  So, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests.  Back then, priests were the ones who could declare people healed from a disease so that they could be rehabilitated into society.  As the leper men obeyed Jesus and went on their way to the priests, they were miraculously healed from the disease.  When realizing that they were healed, only one of them returned to Jesus to thank Him.  So Jesus asked to this man where were the other nine healed men as none of them came back to give thanks and glory to God.  And isn’t the way we react very often to our answered prayers?  Aren’t we very quick to forget what God has already granted to us but instead insist on what He has not given to us yet?  At the end of this story, Jesus says to the grateful man that his faith has made him whole.  What Jesus meant was that the other nine men received only physical healing while the thankful man was also saved.  This also means that only the grateful Christians will inherit Christ’s true riches as our Lord Jesus meets our giving thanks with fresh blessings everyday.


Ephesians 5:20 says to give thanks always for all things to God.  Does this verse say to give thanks only for the good things?  Or does it say to give thanks only sometimes?  No, it says to give thanks always for all things, meaning give thanks to God always regardless of circumstances because, as Romans 8:28 says, we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  This verse tells us that if we love God, meaning if we keep His commandments, He will ultimately make circumstances work for the good of His children.  Also, when the apostle Paul says “all things work together for good” he is telling us that whatever God allows to come into our lives has for final goal to conform us to the image of His Son and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, let’s always be grateful to God regardless of apparent circumstances. 


So, brothers and sisters, let’s be grateful to God for our many blessings.  Let’s give Him thanks for our husbands or wives.  Your marriage may not be at the place where it should be but you are united together for good reasons.  I give thanks to God everyday for my husband, for his loving patience, his support, and his spiritual leadership.  Let’s give thanks to God for our children.  Our children are a blessing on their own regardless of their behavior.  No matter what is going on today, I can’t imagine my life without the joy of raising Valerie, my daughter, nor can I forget what I learn while raising her: unconditional love, responsibility, and perseverance.  Let’s give thanks to God for our parents and siblings.  Without them, in many ways we would not be the persons we are today.  Let’s give thanks to God for our faithful friends.  Pastor Bob and I cannot imagine the absence of our friend Chuck from our Easter or Thanksgiving celebrations.  And brothers and sisters, let’s be thankful to God for all his material blessings.


Finally, brothers and sisters, besides been thankful for all this and much more, let’s be thankful to God for whom He is, our almighty, eternal, and all powerful Father.  But genuine thankfulness, the one that comes from a deep sense of gratitude, only happens when we truly realize what the Lord has done for us and how much God loves us.  Because you see, God loved us first, He loved us even when we ignored His existence because we were too busy living a worldly life.  He loved us first because while we were still sinners He sacrificed His only Son to pay for our debt of unrighteousness.  He loved us first because once we believe in His Son, He sees us who still sin, clothed in the righteousness of the perfect lamb Christ Jesus.  Because He loved us first, the blood of Christ has made us whole, meaning we are completed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the midst of people filled with emptiness.  Because God loved us first, the blood of Christ has brought peace into our lives in the midst of a desperate world in constant turmoil.  Because He loved us first, the victory of the cross has delivered us from Satan’s grip and has given us the power to break free from all evil strongholds.  Because He loved us first, the victory of the cross gives us hope for today and for eternal life in a world with no hope.  Because He loved us first, we now have a purpose for our lives in a world that desperately searches for meaning of life.  Because He loved us first, we know that one day we will live eternally in the glory of His presence and for this, my dear brothers and sisters, we should humbly say “thank you Lord!”




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