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Be thankful on Thanksgiving

During the fall months, stores busily put out items to decorate our homes for the upcoming season. It amazes me how early Christmas items show up on the shelves. And Halloween is not a nightmare but a dream-come-true for merchants because our culture has "bought in" to celebrating the darkness and macabre or seamy aspects of humanity. So when we peruse the isles we have Santa Claus decorations on one side and Halloween gore or perversion on the other.

Recently, I was not looking for either section. I wanted to find what was out on the shelves for Thanksgiving. Have you had trouble finding that store section like I have? In most cases it is non-existent. Why do you think that is? A savvy merchant knows the store must provide what the public wants. Evidently the public isn't very interested in celebrating Thanksgiving. Otherwise, I am sure the stores would be filled with paper Turkeys, cornucopia horns, and pilgrim decorations.

I am not advocating for commercializing Thanksgiving. But it seems our culture has moved away from setting aside time to give thanks. Maybe it is because people have lost a sense of who it is we are to thank for another year of blessing. We can thank our parents, our friends, our employer, our government, Mother Nature, our lucky stars, or just feel thankful, I suppose. But the official holiday for thankfulness has more or less become a "Turkey Day" and football day and a preamble for Black Friday shopping.

The loss of enthusiasm for the holiday, I believe, is because the American public has lost its sense of genuine thankfulness to God for all his blessings. Maybe that is because we no longer see God as our benefactor. We trust in a bunch of things and people to provide for us what we want and need. Maybe we also feel more entitled to the good life, and we are irked that we don't have as much as "the rich." Say thanks to God? Sure, just before "pass the potatoes."

Why even make a fuss about celebrating a day set apart to give thanks to God? It just feels sandwiched like turkey left-overs between the hectic preparations for the parties of Halloween and "Happy Holidays" parties at the end of the year.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian church they have much to be thankful for. In Colossians 2:6-9 we read, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority."

If we remember what we receive in Christ, living our lives as forgiven and redeemed sinners, trusting in the foundation of Jesus at work in us to build us up and strengthen us, facing life's challenges with the confidence of what the scriptures teach, then we enthusiastically respond with "Thanks be to God!"

Philosophies extoling human accomplishments, and human traditions like Halloween and Santa Claus or even Turkey Day that don't lift our eyes towards God will leave us with a flat taste in our mouths when it's all said and done. A real sense of gratitude and humble thanks comes from acknowledging our God and Savior and receiving the miracle He has accomplished for us.

Let's help our families and friends celebrate thanksgiving this year. Let us focus on Jesus and give Him thanks. Let us count all the ways He has provided for us, now and for eternity. As we gather around the table, we often recite words that someone else wrote for us. Instead, will you dare to offer your own words of thanks to God? Offer to say a prayer, and then just talk to the Father like you would talk to someone who gave you a beautiful present. Let Him know you really appreciate Him. Offer thanks for your life, your redemption, His protection, the blessings of your loved ones, His help with life's challenges, and the hope we have in the resurrection. Pray from the bottom of your heart. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving and celebrate the blessings of who Jesus is and the love of our heavenly Father.

Happy Thanksgiving! -- Pastor Jim Osvold