Regardless of how old I get, Thanksgiving reminds me of the times when I was growing up, the house would be filled with the aroma of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, several kinds of pie and cranberries. We never had cranberries at any other time of the year – only Thanksgiving. Mom would make her own cranberry sauce. Some of the cranberries didn’t break open when they were cooked, so when we bit into one of those little delights, they’d burst with that scrumptious sour flavor and make your eyes water and your lips pucker. Now that was Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving reminds us of our nation’s heritage – the celebration of the first successful harvest the pilgrims had, the sharing of food with the natives, the good friends and the family. All these things happen just to bring thanks to God for His grace and mercy. But, there’s a danger inside our Thanksgiving feasts. It’s a danger because we may praise God with our words and appetites, but then many will go back like the rest of the nation and forget that God took care of us all the other days of the year too.
It’s like the story about an old couple who, unbeknownst to the husband, were having trouble. The wife complained to their pastor, “My husband never shows me love and thanks for what I do for him.” The pastor asked the husband, “Don’t you appreciate your wife’s work or don’t you love her anymore?” The husband said, “Of course I do.” The pastor then asked, “Why don’t you let your wife know you love her and appreciate her once in awhile?” The husband turned to his wife and said, “My dear, the day we were married, I told you I love you. On our first anniversary, I told you how lucky I am and how much I appreciate you as my wife. If I ever change my mind, I will let you know.”
I doubt any of us are like that poor wife and misdirected husband. If we survive a crisis, I’m sure we’d gush with praise of God. But don’t we have the tendency to slip into forgetfulness in our own gratitude toward God? Do we really savor each moment of God’s blessings realizing that His grace and mercy brought us through every high time and every low time of our lives? Or is our gratitude like biting into a half-cooked cranberry that just puckers our lips and gives us a great big sour puss.
Root of the Fruit of Thanksgiving
God speaks to us about perpetual thanksgiving – the thanksgiving of life, or to put it another way, the Root of the Fruit of Thanksgiving. Remember the seeds we planted last Spring: they didn’t produce any fruit unless their roots were nourished and healthy. By the same token, our thanksgiving will be weak and short lived if the root of our thanksgiving is missing. If our thanksgiving is only an annual emotional spasm, it’s like eating half cooked cranberries. Roots have to go deep into their foundation. According to St Paul, the real root of our gratitude toward God is a matter of being “filled with knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
What does this mean? Spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom are all linked together. We grow in the knowledge of God by reading and hearing His Word in our lives. We see His gracious hand in our history. In nature, in our personal lives, and in the world around us, we see His balance and order. We become wiser in our attitudes about life and toward God when we realize that He’s the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. As we become wiser about Him, we become more thankful toward Him. We then show our appreciation of what it is He’s done for us. That’s when it blossoms into true thanksgiving… the root of the fruit of thanksgiving.
Back in the early part of our nation’s history two ships left Europe for the new world. One of them landed on the Yucatan peninsula on 1519. Captain Cortez claimed the land for his queen of Spain. Cortez marched his troops toward Mexico City, leaving behind a blood trail of destruction. With just 500 troops, Cortez slaughtered millions of natives, enslaving the survivors for many decades to come.
The other ship was filled with Puritan refugees who left England in 1620. They fled from religious oppression and persecution in England. They weren’t soldiers. Instead of swords, they carried Bibles. They didn’t claim the land for their queen, but established homes where they could worship and serve God as their hearts led them.
What if the trade winds had blown differently on those two ships and Captain Cortez was forced to land in North American instead of Mexico? What kind of freedom would we be celebrating for our Thanksgiving…if any? Our country enjoys national, spiritual, medical, and emotional security unlike any other place on earth. Compared to the rest of the world, we’re pretty much self-sufficient. We’ve gone to the point that our great country has given the impression that we might not even need God anymore. If we’re in trouble, we’ll let the government bail us out.
But, when it comes right down to it, we’re not even as independent as those first pilgrims were. They cut their wood, made their own candles, cured their own food, raised their own crops, wove their clothing, and cleared the land. As a people, we don’t do much of that anymore ourselves. What would happen to us if our police, firemen and farmers went on strike? What would happen if Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Canada quit sending oil to us, or our military leaders packed up all their bags and shut down the military? We’d be completely vulnerable and helpless.
We’re dependent on others, but more so, we’re dependent on God – not only for our physical needs and creature comforts, but for the deeper roots of our spiritual needs. By nature, we’re selfish human beings. That’s sinful. Our nation still hold 90% of the world’s wealth, but only 10% of the entire world’s population. Yet, we have people complaining that we aren’t getting enough! We hear a nation demanding more! Yet, no other country in the world or in the history of mankind has had as much.
But, when it comes to spiritual blessings, we have a nation that seems to be moving farther and farther away from God and His Word. We have no assurances for nearly half of our people that their eternity will be joyous. The church of Oprah Winfrey teaches that people need to live life to the fullest now, because there is nothing after we die… and dying is just a ceasing of our minds function, according to the high priestess of worldliness.
It’s only because of God that you and I have peace of mind and spirit. Through the innocent suffering and death of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have a spiritual peace and security now and forever. God’s Spirit calls us by His Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the one truth faith unto life everlasting. We are completely and utterly dependent on God’s grace and mercy. If God for just one second, withdrew His unchanging, divine provision, we’d slip off into oblivion to some remote spot in the universe and cease to exist.
But He doesn’t change. It’s this kind of knowledge that is the root of the fruit of thanksgiving. We are simply God’s children of mercy and grace. We’re His stewards of His goodness. Everything we have is simply a trust from Him. But, the deepest roots of thanksgiving is the spiritual wisdom God offers. St Paul says it this way: “Give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”
Christ is our King. He rules in majesty everlasting. We’re made right with God – not by what we’ve done, said, or merited; but only through the merits and worthiness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We’re at peace with God, and given the opportunity to give thanks to God for all His blessings and providence. We are empowered to live with constant thanksgiving to God, leading a life worthy of the Lord, fulling pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work. The thankful life is a forgiven life. Our life of thanksgiving is a fruitful life, serving God and others in the joys of our life to come through Christ Jesus. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
— President Paavola