I met Jesus and he was thankful

This year marks the 150th time we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in America.  President Abraham Lincoln made it official in 1863 with these words:

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Since then, Thanksgiving celebrations range from, on one hand, nostalgic family meals to, on the other gluttonous pageants of usury.  Or maybe somewhere in between.  In any case, whether we lift the turkey and stuffing to our mouth as unto the Lord or as unto our belly, gratitude remains the headline of the day.

But before Lincoln penned these words, the Bible already said a good bit about gratitude.  42 of the 150 Psalms include thanksgiving.  Nehemiah assembled a choir specifically to sing about how thankful the people were.  Paul goes as far as to say that God’s will for us is that we are thankful.  Wonder what God’s will is for your life?  Be thankful!

If that weren’t enough, as if by some bizarre paradox, Jesus is thankful.  When I think about that it almost seems counter-intuitive that the One who made everything is expressing gratitude.  But he did, on a handful of occasions that we find in the New Testament.

Before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus thanked the Father. Reading this recently got me to thinking of the connection between gratitude and miracles.  There isn’t a formula given to us here that says if you’re thankful then a miracle will happen.  But it is curious to me that upon a foundation of gratitude a miracle was built.  The Psalmist agrees that it is a thankful heart that prepares the way for the Lord to come into our lives.

On another occasion Jesus thanked God, then fed five thousand with five loaves of bread.  From this example we “say grace” or “bless the food” before we eat.  Our humble act may not multiply food, or it may; but either way it serves to remind us of whose hand it is that feeds us, always miraculously.

During Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, he instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist, also known as communion.  As he broke the bread, he gave thanks.  What could this link between his symbolic suffering and gratitude mean?  Perhaps giving thanks at dusk is a way to endure unimaginable suffering at midnight.

So Abe was right.  And he called an entire nation to give thanks, once a year, and not only that, but to praise God as well.  In today’s Santa Claus-infested, credit card abusing, waistline expanding caricature of the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the World, let’s harken back to the 150-year-old words of a slightly awkward but seriously wise man, and remember all we have to be thankful for, and who we are thanking.

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About VCC

At VCC, we believe that church is not a function: it is a family. Our religion is only as alive as we are, the people that pursue it. So, rather than acting as an organization, we want to act as an organism. We have no time for casual contacts and meaningless formalities. We are a fellowship on an adventure towards the stuff of God. Church means worshipping God together, studying the Bible together, fixing our cars together, hiking together, eating together, playing together, praying together... enjoying the warmth of the Holy Spirit in all parts of our lives together, not just in appointed meeting times.