PilgrimsGive thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given
Jesus Christ, His Son.

In the United States, late fall and early winter is traditionally a time of thanksgiving — and the most important reason to be thankful is that God has given us the greatest gift imaginable, Jesus Christ, as the song lyrics above remind us. In Jesus, our lives have hope and meaning. Without him, all the "things" of this world would be vanity — utterly meaningless.

The fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving Day, in remembrance of the Pilgrims, who were eager to thank God for the bare necessities of life. By modern standards, they were deep in poverty — but they were rich in gratitude.

  • The previous winter, more than half the Pilgrims had died from bad weather, hunger and illness. But the Pilgrims were not shaken in faith. Their grief did not paralyze them. They were thankful for the life they had.
  • They were thankful for food, even simple rations. Today, many of us live in a land of plenty, where overeating is more common than malnutrition. In the United States, it takes only 3 farmers to feed every 100 people, which means that the other 97 percent can produce other goods and services that raise the standard of living for all. This is good, and we should be thankful.
  • The Pilgrims were thankful for peace. They were fleeing religious persecution, and felt blessed to be on good terms with the Native Americans. They knew they were strangers and pilgrims, guests on land that had not been theirs. We are also pilgrims and strangers on earth, seeking a better country, a heavenly inheritance (Hebrews 11:13-16).
  • They were so thankful for the small amount they had, that they were willing to share it with their potential enemies, the Indians. This was not a shrewd political maneuver — it was an honest expression of being thankful for what God had given. The Pilgrims always kept God in the picture. Whatever happened, he allowed, and whatever the circumstances, they were to be used for his glory. With that conviction, we can indeed be thankful for all things.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is usually Advent Sunday. This is an annual commemoration celebrating the Second Coming (the Advent) of Jesus Christ. We eagerly await our Savior to bring even greater blessings upon his return. For this, too, we can be supremely thankful, for he who promised can be counted on to bring this blessing to us: the presence of God, with peace and joy greater than we can imagine!

Then comes the Advent season, when churches traditionally begin to go through the Gospels, starting with the story of John the Baptist, who came to prepare the way for the Lord. Again, what a great cause for thanksgiving, for celebration — to realize that God did not leave us in our sins, did not punish us according to our transgressions. Instead of giving us what we deserved, he gave us Jesus Christ, his Son.

How should we respond to such a gift? With grateful hearts, with generosity. We should be generous with others, just as God has been generous to us. Throughout the New Testament, we see that our attitudes and behavior are to be a reflection of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We are to be like him, to be Christ-like, to be transformed by the renewing of minds, as we let his mind be in us, as we let his humility and compassion be ours.

Jesus was a thankful person, not griping about things he didn't have, but simply using what he had  for God's glory. He didn't have much in the way of silver and gold, but what he did have, he gave: He gave healing, cleansing, freedom, forgiveness, compassion and love. He gave himself— in life as well as in death. He was a living sacrifice, not just someone who died. He continues to live as our high priest, giving us access to the Father, giving us assurance that God loves us, giving us hope in his return, giving us himself.

How do we respond to what he has given us? 

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