The Same Old Thanksgiving

(Read Psalm 136 as a responsive reading as it was originally intended when written.)

Every year at this time, we gather with family, we eat a meal that’s bigger every year, with a family that continues to grow over the years, eat, watch football, play games, eat again, catch up with people we don’t see very often, eat again…eating is a theme for this holiday isn’t it!? But for what purpose? To give thanks, of course! But what are we giving thanks for? We all know that it’s always the fourth Thursday in November that we designate as the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn’t an official holiday until Abraham Lincoln made it so in October of 1863?

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be the Turkey?

We all know that it was the Pilgrims who had the first Thanksgiving after sailing across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1621. But, did you know that mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, popcorn, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberries were not on the menu? More than likely they had lobster, rabbit, chicken, fish, squashes, beans, chestnuts, hickory nuts, onions, leeks, dried fruits, maple syrup and honey, radishes, cabbage, carrots, eggs, and goat cheese and it all lasted for about 3 days.

But with all of this fun facts said, what are we giving thanks for? The reason we celebrate Thanksgiving is in remembrance of the pilgrims and to give thanks. But as Christians, we are called to give thanks continually. Ephesians 5:20 says, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. As Christians, we are called to give thanks in everything, for everything. Thanksgiving is one day a year that we do this. Giving thanks is something that’s slipped in our everyday culture to just one day a year to be thankful. The problem is, we have so much that we can thank God for that we couldn’t possibly do it all in one day. Instead of eating being the main theme, it would be praying and talking about everything God has done for us over the period of that year.

The Israelites had a lot to be thankful for. As we read in our Scripture this morning, they indeed have been blessed. And that wasn’t even close to all of the blessings they had received. The reason we read Psalm 136 as a responsive reading is because more than likely, that is what it was used as when it was first written. It would have been read by one of the leaders as the congregation responded as you did. Yes, the Hebrews gathered together sorta like we do today, only their services were a little different. The purpose was the same though…to give glory, honor and praise to God.

But what I want you to notice is how after every, what seems like small, statement, the phrase “His love is eternal” appears (depending on the translation you use). It gets repetitive after a while and a little boring…but the point that it drives home is that God’s love is eternal. Now, combine this with the original thought in verse 1, we come up with the theme for this Psalm. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, His love is eternal.” What follows are examples of God’s goodness and love.

Philip Yancey wrote an article in “Christianity Today” back in 1994 about visiting the “Old Faithful” Geyser. He writes:
“I remember my first visit to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Rings of Japanese and German tourists surrounded the geyser, their video cameras trained like weapons on the famous hole in the ground. A large, digital clock stood beside the spot, predicting 24 minutes until the next eruption. My wife and I passed the countdown in the dining room of Old Faithful Inn overlooking the geyser. When the digital clock reached one minute, we, along with every other diner, left our seats and rushed to the windows to see the big, wet event. I noticed that immediately, as if on signal, a crew of busboys and waiters descended on the tables to refill water glasses and clear away dirty dishes. When the geyser went off, we tourists oohed and aahed and clicked our cameras; a few spontaneously applauded. But, glancing back over my shoulder, I saw that not a single waiter or busboy - not even those who had finished their chores - looked out the huge windows. Old Faithful, grown entirely too familiar, had lost its power to impress them.”

I have personally been to see Old Faithful, as a matter of fact, in the summer of 1994. For someone who is new to the Geyser, it is an impressive, awe-inspiring sight. But for someone who is there all the time, it gets boring and loses its luster. Have you ever seen this in Christianity? It happens all the time.

Some new believers who has never heard the message of Thanksgiving like we preach every year, is exciting to them. The concepts of justification, salvation, Christmas from the perspective of centering it on Christ, this is all new to them. It’s exciting! They want the whole world to know about the things Christ has done for them.

You and I have been around the church for quite a few years. The concept of giving thanks is very familiar to us. Christ is familiar to us. But, sometimes, we lose the excitement that we once had when we were first saved.

So how do we get back to that excitement that we once had? I’d like to submit that Romans 12:1-2 as a motivator for that. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It all comes down to your attitude. Transform your mind, not to conform to the world, but to submit yourself before God as a living sacrifice to discern what is God’s Will.

In our passage in Psalm 136 today, there is a method to what the writer is telling us to be thankful for.

First of all, God made the creation. We are to be thankful for that. The birds, trees, soil, our harvest, the air, houses, cars…everything.

Second, God provides aid for us. Listed in the Psalm are some ways God helped the Israelites. What are some of the ways God provides for you? An income, a family, protection from deadly regimes through our military, friends, a place to gather to Worship our creator freely, friends in the faith to encourage and support us when we are down and out.

Third, God provides food for all creatures. All of this is simply because God loves us. His love endures forever.

As you probably noticed, this isn’t the title nor the Scripture that I had planned for today. God worked on me this week and I had to scrap the original idea Saturday morning and let God lead me to where he needed me to go. I am thankful this holiday season for God’s leading. I am thankful for God providing me a wonderful, loving congregation to be a part of and minster to. I am thankful for so many things that, I could probably come up with a list and spread it out over the next year and be thankful for one thing a day for the next year.

What are you thankful for this year? I want to encourage you to renew your mind to be thankful for the many blessings of this past year and for the year to come. May God Bless you and your family this Thanksgiving Holiday.


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