Here it is, Thanksgiving 2004. We need to start taking this holiday as one that is fundamentally apologetic in nature. I am using “apologetic” in the sense of “defending and articulating the faith,” and not in the “so sorry” sense. In the first chapter of Romans, St. Paul argues that the heart of unbelief naturally and readily turns away from two things. First, that heart turns away from the Godness of God, and refuses to honor God as God. Second, the sinful heart refuses to give Him thanks.
Consequently, if we as Christians want to arrest the devolution of this wonderful day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God, in the name of Jesus Christ, into some generic Turkey Day, a preliminary warm-up to Shopping Day, we must make a point of emphasizing these two things. We must honor God as God, and we must give Him thanks.
With regard to the first, consider the fact that the triune God encompasses all of reality. He created it, He sustains it, He sets the trajectory for it, and He defines what constitutes sanity within it. In Him we live and move and have our being. He is the one who enables us to enjoy both form and freedom because in His Godhead He encompasses the unity of that Godhead, as well as the three-fold division of Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Because God is One and Three, and only because He is Unity and Diversity, we can enjoy one table and on that table also enjoy the turkey, and the rolls, and the beans, and the jello (with port in it), and the mashed potatoes, and then come the pies. Because God is God, and there is no other, it is possible for us to give thanks, knowing that all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. Today at our table we are welcoming some dear friends of many years, whose son was killed in action in Iraq a little over a week ago. All of us at the table have the bedrock conviction that the Judge of the whole earth will do right, and that if God were not sovereign over all events, including a heartache like this one, then we Christians of all men are most to be pitied. St. Paul tells us to give thanks “always and for everything.” If God is not God, this is simply incoherent. But if God be God, and He surely is, then thanksgiving is not a Pollyanna whitewash on a meaningless world. Thanksgiving is not merely a superficial response to the present possession of enough to eat. We come to the Thanksgiving table because we reject the theology of the “foolish women” Job referred to, those who thought that God is the God of happy things only, and not the God of all the world.
But in this context, we are also to enumerate our blessings, and render thanks to God, knowing that it is not possible for enough people to hear about how good He has been to us. And so what am I thankful for? Trying to express it is a little bit like trying ladle out Niagara Falls with a teaspoon — and yet it is an effort demanded by the circumstances. So, realizing that a good bit of the falls is getting past me, allow me to mention just a few things.
The triune God of Scripture created the heavens and earth from nothing, and all of it very good. When our father Adam revolted against Him, He did not write us off, consigning us to the damnation we were seeking, but rather sent His Son to reconstitute the human race, make all things new, establish a new heavens and new earth, and to save the world. Thanks be to God.
After my salvation in Christ, my greatest earthly blessing is currently in the kitchen, overseeing a turkey that is getting the Proverbs 31 treatment. Nancy Ann is the most remarkable woman I have ever met — beautiful, smart, funny, godly, beautiful — and she carries it all with an astounding humility. And speaking of Proverbs 31, does it not say to praise her on the Internet? Thanks be to God.
My children all love the Lord, and they are married to wonderful Christians, and all of them, together with their spouses, look at the world sideways with a Chestertonian quirkiness that is one of the greatest blessings of my life. God has blessed them with our nine grandchildren, in whom the quirkiness gene appears to be successfully striving for mastery. For Ben and Bekah, Nathan and Heather, Luke and Rachel, thanks be to God. And for that which is pressed down, shaken, running over — Knox, Jema, Bel, Hero, Judah, Rory, Lucia, Ameera, and Evangeline, thanks be to God.
I am a minister who labors with one of the most diligent sessions of elders that I ever heard of, and all of us together labor in an extraordinary congregation of faithful saints. Thanks be to God.
And of course, every thanksgiving list has to have a miscellany. And so here it is: my pick-up truck, twelve bar blues, my slippers, a great bed, a barbeque for the burgers, my house and three acres, beer and ale, computers, central heating, Sam Gamgee, hot and cold running water, dental care, mowing the lawn, the cadences of the KJV, peanut butter, a fireplace with a fire in it, my library, Narnia, contact lenses, Smartwool socks, ice cream, my wife’s perfume, Beowulf, Genevan psalms, and thanks be to God.
And incidentally all of this constitutes an amazing argument (proof, schmoof) for the existence of God, for those who have grateful eyes to see. We have received all this, and much more, and obviously have a duty to render thanks for it all. God must exist — it would be impossible to thank Him otherwise.