Thanksgiving Eve

Preached: November 21, 2007

Give Thanks to the Triune God
Selected Texts

A. Give Thanks to God the Father

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word of God for our first devotion is from Apostle Paul's letter to the Christians in Colosse.

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17 NIV).

This is the Word of the Lord

Dear friends in Christ, fellow children of God:

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” What reasons do these words give us for being thankful? Obviously we give thanks to the Father for the world that we live in. His hands made the earth below and the sky above. We stand apart from the atheistic evolutionists, who credit all to a Big Bang and random change. We give thanks to God as Creator of all. Several thousands of years ago nothing existed, except God. There was no matter or energy, no time or space. In the beginning before everything, God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.

His Word makes it clear that he did all this in six regular days. These were not millions of years through which God worked behind the scene directing evolution. No, he spoke and in an instant things came to be - land and sea, plants and animals. He formed Adam from the dust of ground and breathed into him the breath of life. He formed Eve from Adam's rib and brought them together, our first parents. We confess God the Father as the Creator, not in the ways mankind has invented to try and fit evolution into the Bible, but in the way God himself has described it as his eyewitness account in Genesis 1 and 2.

So as you look up at the stars at night and marvel at the multitude of lights, as you see the varied crystal patterns of frost on the window pane or in a snowflake, as you breathe in the fresh air of fields and wood, of earth and stream, give thanks to the Father. All is his creation, made for you.

But there's more. Some imagine God to be like a watchmaker. He made everything, wound it up with the laws of nature, and then forgets about. Once the watchmaker has made his sale, he no longer cares about the watch, but not our heavenly Father.

You see, his creating work was not confined to those six days. He created you and me. He knit us together in our mother's womb. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, the Scriptures confess. Yes, he worked through our parents and the process of fertilization, implantation, and embryonic development that science tries to describe. Those were the tools, but he is the Craftsman, your Craftsman. You are not just a physical body, but you are a spiritual being with body and soul. You are God's special creation. Give thanks to the Father, for he personally created you.

But there's more. Unlike that watchmaker, he continues to care for you as a dear Father. He provides all that we need to preserve our life. Food and clothes, home and work, family and friends, community and country. He gives you and me the ability and time to work and make a living for ourselves and our families. He makes the sun rise and the rain come. We can't even forecast the weather decently, much less control it. But your heavenly Father provides. Give thanks to the Father, for he generously gives us what we need.

But there's more. He also protects us. So many dangers he keeps away that we are not even aware that we were in danger. And when in his divine wisdom and love he sends trouble, he works it for our good to train and strengthen us and draw us ever closer to him. And finally he delivers us from all evil by taking us to be with him in heaven. Give thanks to the Father for his powerful protection.

So much to give thanks for! And yet how often we have failed to carry out the words of the Apostle Paul: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV). “In whatever you do.” Yet we use the gifts the Father gives forgetting where they came from. We feel a pride in our own skills and accomplishments that robs him of the credit as we claim it for ourselves. We complain as if our God we're tight-fisted, begrudging us what we deserve. We feel unsatisfied and discontent with what we have, wanting more or wanting something different. We hold back our offering wanting to buy some earthly bauble for our ourselves or for our family and friends. We worry as if our Father might not be able to take care of us in the future.

We don't deserve to be his children or to call him Father. We deserve to be forsaken, abandoned, condemned to the torture of hell. But despite our ingratitude, the Father, in his mercy and good will apart from anything we do, gave his greatest gift of all to us. He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to take away your sins.

So open your eyes to see just how richly the Father has blessed you. His hands have made you and shaped you. His hands are open providing you with much more than we need. His hands are mighty to take care of you and protect you. His hands our gentle, caring for you as his dear children through faith in Jesus Christ. Give thanks to the Father, through Jesus the Son. Amen.

B. Give Thanks to God the Son

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word of God for our second devotion is from the Apostles Paul's second letter to the Christians in Corinth.

Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 NIV).

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow redeemed:

How difficult it is to give thanks to God! Maybe it's not hard setting aside one day a year, especially when we get off work that day, have plenty to eat, and a football game to watch. It's easy to give thanks when we feel satisfied, though that might be a very shallow thanks.

The fact that you are hear tonight, shows that you know that there is much more in life to give thanks for than food and entertainment. But giving thanks is more than just coming an hour or so a week to church. Remember that first passage we had: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed” (Colossians 3:17 NIV)? Our entire life, every breath we take, every move we make, every choice, every thought, every word and deed is to flow from thanks. How difficult! How impossible for us! Where does the power come from?

The first passage pointed us in the right direction with the words “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17 NIV). The passage from 2 Corinthians expands on that.

True thankfulness does not flow from guilt. It does not come from being told about how thankful we ought to be. Even lists of genuine blessings can be misused as a club to beat thankfulness out of us. Such tactics can force an outward show of thanks and that even tricks us into thinking that we are being thankful. But genuine thankfulness toward God comes from only one source. Only one fuel powers and drives our thankfulness.

What is that fuel and power? Christ's love for you. “Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV). The 2nd Article sums up actions Christ's love took for you: conceived, born, suffered, died, was buried. Then he rose as your Lord.

Let's consider that special name and privilege to call Jesus our Lord. When you use that name for Jesus, don't picture and slave-driving master. That's a tyrant, not our Lord. Don't picture someone living in ease and pleasure, well others beneath him toil away to meet his wants. That's an aristocrat, not our Lord. Rather picture someone who cares deeply for his people, who wants to use his power and authority to do what is best for his people. And now consider what your Lord did for you.

While we were still not a people, while we were still his enemies, god-haters, while we were still powerless sinners, he died for you. That's what he did to make you his people. He died for you, for he died for all. He ransomed you to be his very own. He purchased you with his lifeblood. He redeemed you from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. You belong to him as his chosen people, as his precious possession. You are his and he is yours. For he is your Lord who redeemed you.

Such love that Christ, your Lord, has shown you, his love is the fuel and power that generate thanks in our hearts. It generates thanks not just one day a year or a couple of hours a week, but continually generating thanks to God from your heart because your Lord has redeemed you. You have died with Christ your Lord. Now just as he was raised again, so also you have new life. In this new life no longer live for yourselves, but for him who died for you and now lives again, for him who is your Lord who ransomed and redeemed you to be his very own. Your genuine thanks flows from this love that your Lord has shown to you. Amen.

C. Give Thanks to God the Holy Spirit

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word of God for our second devotion is from the Apostles Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome.

You did not receive the spirit of slaves to make you feel afraid again, but you received the spirit of God's adopted children by which we call out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children, and if children, then heirs, God's heirs, and joint heirs with Christ since we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory (Romans 8:15-17 NET).

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

Jesus is your Lord who has redeemed you from slavery to sin. But how did we become his people? Our hearts and minds were under the control of sin. We could not choose to be his people. We could not decide to leave behind our slavery. Our entire will was so captivated by sin that we wanted nothing to do with Jesus. That's what it means to be born in sin as the Scripture teach. We were filled with evil, empty of good, unwilling to change, powerless to escape, dead in sin. We were God's enemies, not his children. We were Jesus' enemies, not his people. How did that all change?

Listen to what the Scriptures say, “You received the spirit of God's adopted children by which we call out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit” (Romans 8:15, 116 NET). The Holy Spirit has brought you into fellowship with God. That is his work as the Holy Spirit. He breaks our connection to the polluted, sinful world and connects you to the holy God.

He has a very special tool he uses to do this. For you see, as sinners we cannot stand in the presence of holiness. As sinners, we stand condemned before the just judge and sentenced to never-ending torture in hell. But the Holy Spirit uses his special tool to wash away our sin. What is that tool? The Gospel.

The Gospel is the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus' blood. He brings the Gospel to you and me packaged in his Word and in the Sacraments, which are Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Through these the Holy Spirit testifies to us about about Jesus. He testifies that Jesus is our God and Savior who takes away our sins. For the Holy Spirit uses the Gospel to point us to Jesus again and again. That is the Spirit's work, to point us to Jesus.

Now with that Gospel in Scripture and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit changes us. He takes our unwilling hearts and makes us willing. He takes our minds held captive by sin and frees us. He works faith in our hearts. Not just any kind of faith, but faith in Jesus, faith that trusts in Jesus as our only Savior from sin, faith that is confident that Jesus' blood washes us clean, faith that eagerly anticipates the inheritance Jesus' has won for us and the glory we will share with him. This faith confesses that God is our merciful Father through Jesus. This faith confesses that Jesus is our Lord who ransomed us.

Through this same Gospel in Scripture and Sacraments he keeps that faith burning in your heart so that you continue to be God's child. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children” (Romans 8:16 NET). And as children of God, you are connected with all his other children, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. For all who so believe in Jesus are holy in God's sight. They are saints, like you, washed in the blood of Christ, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Along with you they are the body of Christ, so that we can work together with our varied gifts to build up the body, to encourage one another.

And as God's children you are heirs, “God's heirs, and joint heirs with Christ since we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17 NET). For you will be raised form the dead and your body glorified when Jesus returns on the Last Day. And you will live in heaven before the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the light of his glory forever and ever.

What great things to give thanks for! Give thanks for the Gospel and for the Scripture and Sacraments that bring it. Give thanks for the forgiveness of sins that is your through Spirit-worked faith. Give thanks for your fellow believers who share the Gospel and faith with you. Give thanks for the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Give thanks for the marvelous, gracious work the Holy Spirit does in you so that you are the Father's child and Jesus is your Lord. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

Top