If you’re like me, you can almost taste it already. The Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner, and the anticipation of the annual turkey-day feast makes my mouth water just thinking about it. For many of us the memories of Thanksgivings past bring a warm feeling to our hearts, and perhaps a little phantom indigestion to our bellies. For others, it just means plenty of stress.
What that in mind, I hope your Thanksgiving this year isn’t anything like Scott Nelson’s. You’ve probably never heard of him; I hadn’t either until I came across his story a few years back. His is the story of a truly stressed-out holiday. Back in 1990, the 33-year old Nelson was charged with assaulting his wife on Thanksgiving Day. Apparently he became enraged that his turkey had not defrosted. So he went out in the parking lot of their apartment complex and threw the frozen bird–and a pie–on the pavement. It gets worse. When his wife, Jackie, gathered up her child to flee, he hurled the frozen turkey at the car, breaking the windshield. Scott ended up spending part of Thanksgiving Day in jail, charged, I suppose, with assault with a dead(ly) turkey. He definitely lost perspective. That’s not hard to do this time of year, especially with all the trappings of the holiday season. When we do, we miss out on what Thanksgiving is all about. In our increasingly secular culture, it’s easy to become ungrateful–not unlike the TV cartoon brat Bart Simpson. When called on to say grace in one episode, he prayed “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” The reality is that Thanksgiving for the non-believer is one of the most perplexing days of the year. Why? Because giving thanks, by definition, requires that you are thankful to Someone. And as Mary Ann Vincent says it, “The atheist’s most embarrassing moment is when he feels profoundly thankful for something, but can’t think of anybody to thank for it.” Though Thanksgiving Day is not a distinctly Christian holiday, thanksgiving as an act is a major biblical teaching. Scripture is full of admonitions to give thanks, and examples of those who did. I have always been struck by the fact that Jesus, on the night he instituted the Lord’s supper, began it all with thanksgiving. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.” This Sunday in our worship we will share in that same “supper” once again, as a means of giving thanks for Christ’s sacrifice for us.
There is no more specific exhortation in Scripture than the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There it is in a nutshell. It is God’s will for us to be thankful, in everything, even when times are tough. And, for whatever it’s worth, it’s not just mouthing words of Thanksgiving before we slice into the turkey, it’s living life with an attitude of gratitude, day by day. As I’ve heard it said before, thanksgiving is thanks-living.
Let me take a minute in this last ePsitlebefore Thanksgiving weekend to express my thanks to God (and to you my church family) for the blessed privilege of serving as your pastor. I do count it such a joy to serve you, and serve with you, and I’m so grateful that the Lord has led us together in this fellowship we call Shelby Crossings.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t throw your turkey. You could get in a lot of trouble.