Thanksgiving Eve (2023)

Thanksgiving Eve  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  20:45
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Doing All Things — Even Thanksgiving — Through Jesus Christ.

The problem:

Thanksgiving Day reminds us to thank God especially for our material blessings. But a reminder is not enough, because it does not necessarily follow that we will give thanks.
I could list all the wonderful things God has done for us, for which we should thank and praise Him, but will we? We should say, “Look at all that God has done for us,” then go on to say, “Now out of gratitude, let us thank God with our lips and with our lives.” But will we?
But the mistake we may be making is assuming that we have a gratitude that will respond to a listing of God’s mercies, like that if Gospel and gratitude are rubbed together like two sticks of wood, some sort of spiritual fire will result.
The fact of the matter is that as a person is born into the world, he or she doesn’t have the virtue of gratitude any more than any other virtue; all that was lost in the fall. And when we listen to someone describe the blessings of God and then expect him or her to get stirred up about them is as hopeless (in the language of the Bible) as throwing holy things to dogs and expecting them to revere them, or casting pearls before swine and expecting them to recognize what they see as precious jewels.
In human relationships, when we do something nice for someone, we expect a decent response. Let’s say, for example, that we save someone from drowning; it is only natural that we expect gratitude for the rescue in return. But truth be known, in our relationship with God, we are decidedly not grateful. If you can imagine such a thing, we may not realize we have been drowning. We may be quite content in the water and say, “The water’s fine.” Even if we do recognize our predicament and know that we’re drowning, we still have no spark of good left in us enabling us to respond to God’s goodness. We simply cannot swim, not even to God’s extended hand of rescue.
Although in one sense it would seem the most natural thing in the world for us to be thankful to God in view of all He has done for us, in another sense it is most unnatural for us to be thankful to God because by nature we are totally depraved.
For example, the Gospel for this evening shows in a graphic way how unnatural it is for people to give thanks. Nine out of ten lepers healed by Jesus forget to express any appreciation for it. Imagine: a 9-1 ratio! Or take Thanksgiving Day, the day set apart to thank God, the one-day we should be thankful if we ever are. Yet what happens? For many people Thanksgiving Day has become the one day of the year when God is farthest from their thoughts. Instead, we are wondering how the meal will turn out, whether our sick stomach that has bothered us for the last three days is some virus and wondering if we should perhaps we should forego gathering with others. And along those lines, whether the company will make it, and what the outcome of the football game will be.

The solution:

St. Paul tells us in Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “All things” means all things – including the giving of thanks.
We are not only saved by grace alone; we also do good by grace alone – including the good of giving thanks. “I thank my God through Jesus Christ” is the way Paul says it in Romans 1:8. Despite all God’s goodness’s, Paul of himself can’t be thankful about them. He’s not up to that virtue any more than he is up to any other virtue. But, with Jesus’ help—“through Jesus Christ”—Paul is be thankful to God. With Jesus’ help, “through Jesus Christ,” Paul responds to God’s mercies and come across with the gratitude that God certainly has coming. In Jesus’ own words: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
Our text this evening list of eight virtues presented in six adjectives and two nouns leading to an imperative—a command—and its direct object, which is: “think about these things.”
Whatever is true
Whatever noble
Whatever right
Whatever pure
Whatever lovely
Whatever admirable
If any excellence
If any praiseworthy
Think about such things.
These items do please the Lord. Good things with which to occupy the mind. In the final two, God sees virtue that conforms to His will, and what is praiseworthy. The mind matters, as we learned this past Sunday. The goal is to fill the thought-life with whatever is of virtue and praise, as God can assess values.
Yet, it is more than just having a positive attitude. Truth be known, it is all about Jesus. Jesus is true, he is noble, he is right, he is pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praise worthy. Think about Jesus, dear friends. Give thanks with a grateful heart, because without Him we would be utterly lost, indeed.
Our sinful nature does not know how to give thanks and think on good things. In fact, our sinful nature encourages us to dwell upon the bad and pain. Christ Jesus, however, became one of us to fix what sin has taken away. Yes, we still live in this world, but one day Christ Jesus will come again and complete our salvation by taking us home to be with Himself forever. Thou now we feebly struggle, one day we will shine in glory.
In the meantime, we are grateful to God on this Thanksgiving Eve not because we’re just bound to be in view of all He has done for us, but because the Lord Jesus Himself makes us grateful through the message of His saving life and death. And because we are baptized into Jesus’ saving life and dearth, we are grateful for the Good News only through the Good News. Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. As we abide in Him, we can bear fruit—including the fruit of gratitude.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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