Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week most of us in the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving. This annual holiday isn’t unique to us here—many other countries have Thanksgiving celebrations. Though rituals and customs differ, the reason is pretty much the same—to give thanks to God. In the U.S., Thanksgiving Day rituals include a turkey dinner with all the trimmings—according to the National Turkey Federation, 95% of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.
Before or after the Thanksgiving meal, many gather around the TV to watch football. Football on Thanksgiving is a tradition that dates back to 1876 when the first intercollegiate football championship was held on Thanksgiving Day. One reporter called Thanksgiving “a holiday granted by the State and the Nation to see a game of football.” Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. is also known for parades. Many communities hold parades and more than 46 million people watch the most famous of them all—Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, which began in 1924.
The true purpose of Thanksgiving, of course, is to give thanks to God. These days, we don’t praise him for the fall harvest as much as people did in times past and as much as many do in other parts of the world today. But we do praise God for our families, friends and the many other blessings we’ve received over the past year. From pre-meal prayers to laughing with family, to providing meals to the homeless, Thanksgiving is truly a celebration of praise and thanks.
Each year during Thanksgiving I’m reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Thanksgiving reminds us that we have many reasons to rejoice. When families gather at the Thanksgiving table, the question is often asked, “What are you thankful for?” Then each person shares their answer. When it’s my turn, I look around the table to see the many reasons for which I am thankful. And it’s all because of the One who loves us, as T.F. Torrance notes so eloquently in The Mediation of Christ:
God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualized his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (p. 94).
Amen and Happy Thanksgiving!
PS: Tammy and I recently participated in the 40th anniversary of our congregation in Bermuda. It was a joy to be with this delightful church family pastored by Cecil Pulley and his wife Senior. The celebration was held at their church building (pictured below). During the week they rent part of the building to a day care operation and the parking lot to a neighboring grocery store. Please join me in extending congratulations to the Bermuda church for 40 years of faithful service.