THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson
This is Thanksgiving week and so this morning I am preaching a message from Romans 1, titled – “THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.” Recently, I asked some people, “What things are uniquely American?” I got all kinds of answers – baseball, BBQ, jazz music, blue jeans, and many more. Yet, there is one thing that tops them all. It is “Thanksgiving.”
Rom. 1:18-25 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Overall Background: Thanksgiving is a uniquely American phenomenon. There’s nothing like it in any other part of the world. You see harvest festivals and moon festivals but it’s nothing like Thanksgiving in America. You ask – “What’s the difference?” Thanksgiving in America is not about the harvest. It’s not just the celebration by the farmers in America. Everybody from NASA scientists to construction workers to schoolteachers to hospital nurses celebrate Thanksgiving. This coming week, as many as 40 million Americans will travel on or before Thanksgiving Day in order to be with our family and friends.
- We will sit together, no matter if we get along or not.
- We will laugh or cry and eat till we pop. We try to tell ourselves that after Thanksgiving we will go back on our diet.
- Many of us will bow our heads in thanks for the blessings of loved ones, health, job, freedom, and life itself.
Why is Thanksgiving so important in America? Let me first give you some reasons that people think it’s important but they are not the real reasons.
#1.Let’s throw out the obvious one – Americans hate turkeys. Not true. Let me make a quick point here. It’s all right to eat meat. Some people think that it was not until after the Fall or after the Flood that God gave us permission to eat meat. Not true. In the very first chapter of Genesis, God gave them to us for food. He told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:29 that He had given every herb and every tree for food. In the very next verse (30), He adds that every beast of the earth, every bird of the air, and every thing that creeps on the earth (and earlier He also mentions fish of the sea) are also for food. It helps when you read it in the original language. If you remember, Abel was a shepherd, who brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. Meaning – Right from the beginning, people understood what was the best meat. When God came to visit Abraham, He ate meat. While it’s wonderful to love animals and have them as pets, it’s not wrong to have them for food, just as it’s wonderful to have a potted plant and then eat salad.
If you don’t eat meat, that’s fine. Just don’t think that it’s nobler to abstain from meat.
#2.Some people think that it is because the pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” with the Indians and thus set the tradition for generations to come. Not true. It is quite possible that the pilgrims might have celebrated some form of harvest festival with the Native Americans; but the evidence regarding that event comes from barely few fragments, which are not very clear about any grand thanksgiving celebration. Later writers and painters have embellished much of what we have come to think of the “First Thanksgiving.” They are not strong enough motivators for us to take red-eye flights or drive in the dead of night to avoid getting stuck in thanksgiving traffic.
#3.Some people even think that it is because our government has instituted “Thanksgiving Day.” Not really again. It is true that President Washington issued a proclamation that November 26, 1789 be celebrated as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” It is also true that President Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the National day of Thanksgiving and later the Congress passed a law ensuring the celebration of the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day every year. Nevertheless, our moms and grandmas don’t slave over a hot stove for three days in order to comply with some government mandate. It’s not because it’s a National Holiday. After all, most of us Americans don’t take kindly to state sponsored religion.
#4.So, what is the real reason? Is it the food? Is it the family? Is it the urge for us to shop till we drop on “Black Friday?” I don’t think so.
While there is some truth in all of them, I think the reason is much deeper. The real reason we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is because deep in our psyche we know that all we are and all we have is from above. Somehow we know that we don’t deserve this. Somehow we know that God is the source of all our blessings. Somehow we know that God in His goodness either carried us to the finish line or moved the finish line a little closer for us. Somehow God has brought us through difficult times as a nation and continues to guide us. Somehow we know that there is a divine hand that is guiding our lives and our nation – what Ravi Zacharias calls the “Grand Weaver.”
Let me clarify:
– This does not mean that every person sitting around the dinner table will be choking back tears of gratitude.
– This does not mean that every person who is grateful will have the same level of gratefulness.
– This does not mean that people in other parts of the world are unappreciative and ungrateful.
– This does not mean that other people don’t recognize some sovereign deity.
– This does not mean that every American is a Christian.
– This does not mean that God is okay with our sin and immorality.
What it does mean is that Americans, as a people, recognize that God has been good and gracious towards us, even though we don’t deserve it. That makes God happy. It pleases Him when we are thankful to Him.
Let’s look at Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Background: Some people read that passage and immediately think that every sinner is under the wrath of God. Listen again to that verse – The wrath of God is over all those who suppress (hinder, block, hold down) the truth of God. They know better but they do it anyways. Now don’t get me wrong—we are all born “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are all hell bound. We are all sinners with a sin nature.
David says in Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Paul says in Romans 5:19 “. . . by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners . . .” Every person who comes into this world comes with a sin nature. Every sinner has a judgment waiting for him/her. Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”
But the wrath of God is something much more. Romans 1:18 is not just about any sinner. It’s about the boastful, arrogant, defiant sinner, who shakes his/her fist towards heaven. Listen to verse 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
God has given us enough reasons to know that He is there and He made it all and all that we have is a gift from Him.
– Human Beings have been looking at the Sky for centuries and know that someone made them and put them there. One of the French revolutionaries boasted to a peasant, “We are going to pull down all that reminds you of God.” To which the peasant replied, “Then, you better pull down the stars.”
– Human Beings have been looking at the Earth for centuries: perfect distance from the sun; any closer and it would be too hot; any further and it would be too cold. Any closer and all the water would boil away; any further and all water will freeze. Any smaller and oxygen will leave and we would have no atmosphere; any larger and poisonous chemicals will stay in our atmosphere. God made it just right.
– Human Beings have been looking at the beautiful creation around them for centuries—the beautiful trees and flowers; beautiful animals and birds and sea creatures.
– Human Beings have been looking at each other for centuries. How complex and beautiful are human beings. Our human heart beats 100,000 times a day. That comes to about 2,500 million times over 70 years. It pumps enough blood in a lifetime to fill the Empire State building. The heart is a maintenance-free pump that can function throughout life without replacing any parts.
We as Americans have recognized this and we also know that the reason we stand as a nation is by the grace of God:
– Our National motto is “In God We Trust.”
– The 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner says: “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’ And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
– The 4th stanza of My Country ‘Tis of Thee says: “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.”
– Our Pledge of Allegiance still says that we are “One Nation Under God.”
Why do I bring all this up? Because as long as we are grateful to the Almighty God for all our blessings, there is still hope for us as a nation. As long as the Spirit of Gratitude towards God abides in us, the Spirit of God abides upon us.
What happens to the people that refuse to acknowledge God? Listen to verse 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
When people ask me if America’s glory days are over, I remind them to keep their eyes on Thanksgiving Day. As long as Thanksgiving remains a part of the American way of life, we are still a “shining city upon a hill.”
Application: Are you thankful for the blessing of living in this nation? Are you thankful? For your blessings (material, health, family)?
For e.g. Sometime back I was sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. Suddenly, the door leading to the inside opened and I heard this heavy breathing. I saw a social worker or home healthcare nurse, holding this young man by the arm and leading him. Even though he was walking on his own, he could not control his movements/motor skills. I jumped up and opened the door leading out of the waiting room into the hallway. As I walked back to my seat, the lady sitting next to Nicole and me said – “We have so much to be thankful for. We take so much for granted.”
There is something much greater than material and physical blessings. It is the blessing of hope, forgiveness, and peace through Jesus Christ.