It’s Thanksgiving. Family. Parades. Turkey and sweet potato casserole. Fireplaces. Football. 5Ks.
While the history of Thanksgiving as a holiday is slippery to pinpoint, we do know that George Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789 as a nationwide day of Thanksgiving. It is also documented that pilgrims and Puritans celebrated a time of thanksgiving in 1619 (Virginia) and 1621(Massachusetts). If you’re interested in more, the History Channel has a great page here with more.
Thanksgiving – with all its tradition and time with family and friends – invites you deeper than the trimmings. Last Sunday, I preached a message on being thankful where I observed that humility is required to be thankful. You cannot be full of pride and simultaneously full of gratitude. By its nature, gratitude is a posture of the heart in which we acknowledge that something/someone external has influenced us in a sublime way.
There was a moment in Jesus’ ministry where he healed 10 people at one time. (Luke 17:11-19) They were all lepers, and He did it simply by speaking and sending them to be examined by the priest (a necessary step before they would be readmitted into society). As the lepers were on their way, they were healed. Imagine. All 10 would soon be able to walk among crowds without announcing “Unclean! Unclean!” They would be able to sit and eat with family and friends again. They would be accepted and not outcast. Jesus’ healing not only gave them health but community.
They were obviously in a hurry to see the priest as their skin cleared along the way. Their voices were lifted in alternating tones of astonishment and joy. They had had their great need in life met – in a moment. The thing they all longed for most had been suddenly, and graciously met. In a moment, all had changed. Years of longing, praying, crying out had dramatically been replaced by a hurried rush to begin life again. First stop… the priest.
Except for one ex-leper.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. (v15-16)
It was a beautiful scene of thanksgiving. Here’s one thing I don’t want to forget. If we are not careful, we will forget to thank Jesus for what He has done. In moments of dramatic provision, we will – in our enthusiasm – embrace the gift and neglect the giver. If such ingratitude can happen in big moments, imagine the shocking repetition of our ingratitude for how God blesses and provides in our mundane regularity.
We forget that our very breath is a gift.
Here’s how the leper entered into Thanksgiving: he turned back. He stopped what he was doing. He reversed his course. And he turned back into the presence of Jesus. When he got there, “he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” THAT is humility, and it’s the necessary posture for true Thanksgiving.
Beyond our breath, be thankful…
For excitement. For joyful disbelief (no way, no way!). For wonder. For provision. For breath. For hope. For encouragement. For tears. For eyes. For brilliant leaves. For blankets and fuzzy socks. For children. For emotions. For parents. For things that go beep. For fear. For health (good and bad). For Christians. For electricity. For coffee. For peace.
But most of all.. most of all… let us be thankful for the person who gifts all of these to us for our good and growth and enjoyment and blessing…. for Jesus. Where Jesus is, ingratitude cannot reign.
May your Thanksgiving be truly full of thanksgiving.
Be present. Be gracious. Be hopeful. Don’t focus so much on your great need in life (GNIL). Focus on the Great Giver of Life.