“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Ephesians 5:20).
For various reasons, Thanksgiving ranks with the great holidays. Other holidays mark—and wonderfully mark—specific things that God has done for us, whether that be the grace of the Incarnation or the Resurrection. We celebrate them, and we ought to, but we are emphasizing important but particular things that God has given us. This is crucial; otherwise we would get lost in generalities. But Thanksgiving, rightly understood, is a cosmic and universal thing. What is there about the world that this holiday does not relate to? The two great sins that mark the unbeliever, as Paul outlines it in Romans 1, are the fact of not honoring God as God, and the fact of not rendering thanks to Him. Thanksgiving is always to be a central driving response of each day, and it is wonderful to have a particular day that goads us into deeper gratitude the other 364.
So I begin by remarking on the dinner itself. It should be a source of delight to us that millions of people are going to be eating the same thing at roughly the same time. Sometime this afternoon, we will all turn to the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, stuffing, jello, and we have not yet brought up the pies, pumpkin and apple particularly. Some families allow for variations on the theme—for example, in addition to our two turkeys, Nancy has added a ham to the mix. Speaking of Nancy, I need to mention that she is a feminine mechanic among the pans, and a mysterious force of nature with the sauces. To supplement her green beans, she does this wonderful thing with pistachios, recipe here. I believe I have had cause to mention this fact before. And her gravy is something God invented to nourish the souls of men during their long pilgrimage in this vale of tears. Adorning all of this is the fact that not only are we eating the same food again, but we are doing it with the same people again. Glorious fixtures filled with grace at Thanksgiving are found around the table as well as on it. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, parents, children—thank God for all of it and all of us.
As I itemize the things I am thankful for to God, I have to include the people of my congregation at Christ Church. One of the things that the apostle Paul frequently does is that he thanks God for the people he has the grace of ministering to, and he makes a point of telling them how thankful he is. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all” (Rom. 1:8). “I thank my God always on your behalf” (1 Cor. 1:4). “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3). “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren” (2 Thess. 1:3). I believe I know just how the apostle felt about this. I could not be more grateful for this congregation than I am. And this is not just a general, nebulous gratitude, but rather thanks over a large collection of particulars. They are hard-working, extremely generous, evangelistic, full of mercy, diligent in studying their Bibles, given over to the work of providing their children a thoroughly Christian education, and dedicated to the work of establishing solid covenantal families over the course of generations. They gratefully support a hard working session of elders and board of deacons. They are like-minded without being craven or cowed by anybody. They know when to offer an independent voice, objecting or disagreeing if they feel it necessary. And at the same time are secure in their knowledge of what our community is actually like, so that they not easily unsettled by the inevitable false reports and slanders. Real life in a real community will always have its bumps and bruises, which we do have, but I can honestly say that the koinonia fellowship which God has given to us here is the real deal. Every expression of gratitude for this will be necessarily inadequate.
I cannot let this Thanksgiving go by without publicly expressing how grateful I am that Hillary Clinton will not be our president. God has been most merciful to us, and it has to be said that it was a mercy we did not deserve at all. I can say this even while preparing and bracing myself for inevitable clashes with the president we did elect, but compared with what would have been, I am almost looking forward to it. We didn’t just dodge a bullet; we dodged a howitzer shell.
Here is another thing. A common worry among modern sophisticates is that technology is making us stupid. It would be better to say that technology when ignored or mismanaged makes us stupid, but this has always been the case with every form of wealth. We are not dealing with anything new. There is nothing new about the modern world in this respect other than that more people are trying to cope with more blessings all at once than has ever happened before. I say this as a lead in to my expression of profound gratitude for my computers, my Bible software, my tablet, my phone, and all the other electronic servants God has given to me to manage. I don’t do it very well yet, but I know that the opportunity to learn how to do it is an enormous blessing. I am a man who has ten thousand servants in his pocket, and thousands more in my study and office, and every year that goes by I am learning how to put more of them to productive labor. For this I am most grateful.
And last, back to my family again. I alluded to them earlier, those that will be gathered around the table with me, but I want to mention them specifically again. Of course Nancy is my undeserved glory. She is a remarkable woman, and I wish more people knew about what she can do. One of my failings is that I don’t brag on her enough. She is the hardest worker I know, and does it all with grace and cheerfulness. She is a marvelous cook, and she is very smart. She is a student of the Word, and of the Puritans, in that order. With the release of The Silver Lining, she has written eight books, including one textbook. She is a wise counselor, offering help to many women in many difficult situations.
Since I have already broken through her embarrassment barrier, allow me to continue. Nancy is a meticulous house cleaner, and then she decorates it with the eye of a true artist. She arranges flowers with a deftness that amazes. When she prepares a big meal, like today, one of her delights is to arrange and decorate the table like she was an art major working on her final project.
She is beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, industrious, and she hates feminism. She is the kind of woman that other ages, ages that understood true femininity, would have celebrated raucously. When they finally get me, and I slowly mount the scaffold, and a boisterous and enthusiastic crowd has gathered around the platform to taunt their farewells, and tomatoes and deceased cats are flying through the air in my general direction, and the robust nature of the discussion gets to be too much, even for the executioner, he will raise his hand to quiet the crowd. When they have subsided into a sullen silence, he will say, “Enough! No one is so bad that we can’t come up with one good thing to say about him, especially on a day like today, one that is no doubt unusually difficult for him. Who will say one good thing about this enemy of all mankind?” Quiet will descend on the crowd as the crowd descends into thought. Finally, from the back of the crowd a lonely voice will cry out, “Well, Nancy married him.” An approving murmur will rustle through the mob. Yes, we like Nancy.
This Thanksgiving, as circumstances dictated, we will have a smaller number of people than we usually have at our weekly Sabbath dinner—25 of us, which is kind of a skeleton crew. But Nancy and I will be given the privilege, yet again, of celebrating before the Lord with all our kids, their spouses, and all our grandchildren. Not only do we have the fruit of children, we have the blessing and grace of fruitful children and fruitful grandchildren. God gives the increase, God does the multiplying. But what do you have that you did not receive as a gift? And if as a gift then why do you boast as though it were not? This is Thanksgiving Day, not Humblebrag Day.
We—all of us here—live and move and have our being in the grace of God. This grace is above us and below us. It extends to our left and to our right. It goes out ahead of us, and follow up behind us. Not only so, but because it is the grace of God, it extends out from us in each of these direction infinitely. We cannot get out of it. If we are in Christ, we are in the one whose mercy and kindness and grace have no edges to fall off, and so no fences necessary. And so we render thanks to God for our salvation, which is His indescribable gift.