11/22/98, Thanksgiving Sunday

“The Lost Day”
I Thessalonians 5 16-18

m I the only one who has noticed that we Americans have lost Thanksgiving? It used to be that folks got real upset if the department stores had any Christmas decorations displayed prior to Thanksgiving Day, but now malls are in full regalia in October.

Thanksgiving was the big Fall holiday when I was a kid. The public school teachers had their rooms decorated with pictures of turkeys and we heard the stories about the Pilgrim Forefathers and their hardship and bounty. It was such a good time. It made you feel all blessed, even in public school. Do teachers tell this story anymore?

After two hard years of near starvation, the Pilgrims finally had a decent harvest, with the help of their new native neighbors. Thus, the first Governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, wrote a proclamation: “I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

Maybe that’s the reason we have lost Thanksgiving. Do you suppose it is harder to feel blessed in the midst of blessings, than amid hard times? Maybe it’s only when we realize what we have lost that we can express the desire and dream of Thanksgiving.

Our text underscores three core characteristics of the Christian: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances...” Thanksgiving rises naturally out of a heart on fire: It is never something we have to do, but is an experience that has to find an outlet. It’s a joy we can’t help but show.

Outward conditions do not determine our inner enthusiasm! Through the relationship we have with the Lord, and as a result of our conversations with him in prayer, we have come to experience His will at work through all situations that naturally have come our way: “...for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you...” No matter what the current condition of our life is, we have the assurance that we are in His will and that brings inner peace. The only way that we can, “...quench the Spirit.” is to willfully step out of His will. Our attitude in the midst of the storm is that since we are where God wants us to be, He will make a way for us to eventually triumph.

Sitting in the middle of a busy shopping mall I noticed that folks were not smiling. And then cam a blind teenager finding her way with a cane; but with a smile that lit up the entire mall. Later I saw an elderly woman in a wheel chair, happy and chatting with friends, and her baggage compartment filled with gifts. And I felt my eyes dampen and a smile came to my face, that I hope became contagious too.

I would imagine that the Pilgrims had been thanking God all along in the middle of their starvation. The governor’s call was for an official public affirmation of what had been there all along. If they had given up spiritually to their dilemma, they would probably have not survived to experience the harvest.

This was President Abraham Lincoln’s attitude in the middle of our terrible war between the states. In prayer he was led to follow the lead of Governor Bradford in proclaiming the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving--- and every President has followed suit every year. Amid our wars, during the Great Depression, in all circumstances, God has made a way.

Today, we Americans are in the midst of the harvest. Everybody who will work has a job. We are at peace. We have survived the long cold war. We have the unique opportunity to help open new doors for liberty and truth for everybody everywhere. We are blessed, maybe we are blessed too much; because sometimes we do not appear to be grateful.

Why is that true? How have we lost Thanksgiving?

You see, thanksgiving is really a gift of grace; it is a byproduct of loving the Lord, and there are a lot of folks who love themselves. They heap to themselves the stuff of life and finally commit the almost unforgivable sin of thinking that they have done it on their own--- that they somehow deserve the bounty. However, antithetical to that selfish view is the broken heart of the believer who can say, “Without Him I can do nothing!” “To God be the glory, great things He has done!” “I owe it all to Him!”

We have lost Thanksgiving because we have lost Him. Oh, we can go through the motions, but it is lifeless. We can celebrate the conquest of coming toward the end of our days with the most toys on the block, but it is all an empty victory. There will come a day when nothing else will matter but knowing Him, and usually in that day the person who has resisted Him for a lifetime will not hear His calling, even at the end. The saddest words ever penned are the words, “Too late.” And let these words not be applied to you.

Open your heart to the true Spirit of Thanksgiving. Rediscover the once lost day. Allow Him to take your selfishness and make you selfless. Allow Him to take your grudgingly attitude and turn you into a magnanimous giver. Magnanimous, that is a fantastic word. It means to be generous in forgiving, eschewing resentment and revenge. It also means to give joyfully to others. What a great word for one who loves the Lord, and has been turned into a true picture of magnanimity.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

11/22/98, Thanksgiving Sunday