By Tank Tankersley
I don’t imagine for a moment that I can write anything about the holiday that we call Thanksgiving that hasn’t already been said, and better, by someone else. What more can be said? There’s nothing special about the fourth Thursday in November, of course. Christians ought always to give thanks. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As in all that is worthwhile, Jesus is our example. “And he took the seven loaves and fishes and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to this disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (Matthew 15:36).
Our songbooks contain scores of hymns of thanksgiving. We are often, and rightly, admonished from the pulpit to count our many blessing. Not a Lord’s Day passes but that someone prays a public prayer recounting some (not all, for all public prayers must end) of those things for which we should be thankful. The list is familiar to us all by now. The words fall from our lips as readily as our ABC’s: food, clothing, shelter, our health, our jobs, a free country in which to worship, preachers, elders, deacons, teachers, song leaders, missionaries, friends, and on and on. And then there is Jesus. God’s perfect gift. I list Him separately because He is a list of one. There is nothing that compares. “Thank you, God, for Jesus?” That doesn’t quiet suffice, does it? But what would? What can? Here words fail. They are, after all, well…just words. And the love that sent Jesus to reconcile us to God transcends all language, all thought, all… well, you understand. It isn’t in us to describe that love. But it is in us to embrace it, even if most imperfectly. And to act upon it by loving others. No, we cannot love as Jesus did, but we can love in ways we never could have had we not yielded our lives to Him.
It’s always struck me as odd that there’s one blessing for which we so seldom give thanks, perhaps because all other blessings are part and parcel of it. Thank you, God, for sharing your world with us. He didn’t have to, you know. He could have kept it all to Himself. But He wanted someone made in His image to love. All the rest of His handiwork, as wonderful as it is, does not suffice for that purpose. All the rest of His creation is a product of His power. Mankind is a product of His love. His creation is too good not to share. God is love, and love must have its object. How blessed we are that He chose us!
But there is more. When it all went wrong, not because of any failure on God’s part, but by virtue of our rebellion, He made it right in Jesus.
God made it all for us, asking only that we yield to Him. But we wouldn’t have it. We insisted on our way, not His, ruining it all. Irreparable, had God been any less than what He was and is. But being who and what He is, He entered time and space and took all the ingratitude, and hate, and sin and shame, and filth upon Himself. That, and that alone, would bring us back to Him.
So, we say what? Thank you? Well, to say it and mean it is a start but not nearly enough. But then nothing that we can ever say, or feel, or think, or do will be enough. But we can turn it all over to Him, yielding as completely as we know how to Him. That’s all we can do, and how, in response to a love that is God’s alone, can we do any less? That much we can do, not merely on the fourth Thursday in November, but on the day before and the day after, and on every day until that day He calls us to where from the very inception of time He has always desired us to be – with Him!