JIM CREES: For all the wonderful things we have...
Tomorrow, many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day — a day when the people of this nation give thanks for the goodness they’ve benefited from over the past year.
This is one of the most American of all holidays and despite its very religious nature we, as a nation, have managed to keep it free (or more or less free) of the denominational wranglings that mess up so many other holidays.
People of every race, religion, creed and ethnic background can enjoy the day and give thanks however they so please.
When my family was living overseas — in Israel — the Americans in our valley down close to the Jordan River used to celebrate Thanksgiving each year. It was a lot of fun and, in a sense, helped us keep hold of a very special part of our national identity while living so far from home.
Americans all over the world celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It makes them feel at home wherever they may be.
Thanksgiving Day — the day when we give thanks.
I think we sometimes (too often!!) don’t quite know how or why we should be giving thanks. Too often we gather at the Thanksgiving Day table and grind out a perfunctual ‘Blessing’ before really getting down to the business of the day - eating until we see black circles roaming about our field of vision.
Sure, we say “Thanks” but are we giving thanks? It’s hard to think that we were ever meant to shut Thanksgiving up in a single day of the year. We are called on to give thanks daily - in every waking moment and in all of our actions.
We don’t often do that though. Our thanksgiving is too often an acknowledgement of ourselves rather than a recognition of our blessings.
Our thanksgiving — our Thanksgiving Day thanksgiving; our daily, weekly and monthly thanksgiving should reflect the acknowledgment of our need to give thanks because we realize we can’t do “it” on our own.
Allow me a personal story about ‘thanksgiving’ and about a confession of faith in the most trying time of adversity a parent can ever know.
I was blessed with a Christ-like father. Not simply a Christian father — but a man who walked with Jesus daily.
My father was a man whose humblest prayer of thanksgiving at the most trying time in his life was a roaring confession of faith.
When I was 17-years old, my older brother Rick died while in the U.S. Army.
He was my parents’ oldest son. He was the son they prayed for after my mother had already lost her first child at birth.
The pastor of our church and my dad spent hours on their knees in the hospital praying that this baby and its mother would live.
And 21 years later, this child died.
I was out working on a landscaping crew in Detroit and I was told to hurry home — there was a family emergency.
I walked in the house and my dad met me at the door and said: “Your brother is dead.”
I asked him which one and was told the who, how and where.
People filled our home. Neighbors. Family. Friends. Pastors. Ministers. Priests. The house was filled with neighbors and friends.
Toward evening, folks got ready to eat. There was a ton of food. People brought food from all over and they all were invited to stay with us and eat. But before we lifted a piece of food to our mouths my dad called on the dozens of people gathered in our home to bow their heads in prayer.
I’ll never forget the exact words of his prayer that night.
Just hours before, my parents had lost their firstborn son yet my dad bowed his head and lifted his voice saying:
“Dear heavenly Father. Thank you for all the good things you’ve done for us today.”
It was a prayer of thanksgiving.
It was a confession of faith.
It was an acknowledgement that God is good — not only when the table is creaking and groaning under the weight of food, but when the world is crashing down around us and things are at their worst.
I hope that as we gather around the family table and bow our heads at Thanksgiving this year, the thanks we give, the acknowledgement we make for all the good we have will also be a confession of faith.
As we read in Psalms 107:1
“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever.”