November 16 – Giving Thanks When the Odds Are Not in Your Favor

I am always interested in reading the President’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. Republican or Democrat, soaring prose or pedestrian bureaucratese, the proclamations reflect something of the hopes and fears, the confidence or anxiety of the nation to which they are addressed. I am partial to Washington’s First and Lincoln’s 1863. You can read every Thanksgiving Day Proclamation from 1789 to 2011 here. This year’s has not yet been released.

Washington spoke of giving humble thanks to “that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” Lincoln wrote of the nation’s increase even in a time of civil war and then added, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Recent proclamations, Republican and Democrat, have become more generic and less focused.  In 2004 the President asked us to thank our firefighters and police officers, who certainly deserve our thanks. Perhaps firefighters and police officers are more tangible recipients of gratitude in a culture that increasingly doubts the existence of a beneficent Author of all good. Last year we were asked to thank God and each other for simple gifts and then pay them forward. Maybe paying it forward is less difficult than acknowledging sins that deserve God’s anger.

In last year’s Thanksgiving Day address to the nation (not the proclamation) the President told us that he would spend part of the day “reflecting on how truly lucky we truly are.”

Please, these are not intended as partisan attacks on Presidents Bush or Obama. But as words of our leaders, they reflect something about who we are as a people. Thanksgiving to the Author of all good, confession for national sin and thanks for mercy remembered have become not much more than National Thank You Day (recipients unspecified). God’s “singular deliverances and blessings” (Lincoln, 1863) have become luck. And we follow it up with a frenzied all-night shopping spree.

All of us have known great blessings this year (we may want to take some time between now and Thursday to reflect on blessings, especially those not readily apparent). But some of us don’t feel at all as if we have been truly lucky in 2012.  The odds have not been in our favor.

God’s people don’t trust the odds. And giving thanks is never based on how long our list of perceived blessings. God’s people trust God and give thanks to God, knowing that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

There is no shadow of turning with him… (go ahead, give yourself a gift and open the link)

Thanksgiving is a national holiday, not a religious holiday. The nation will make of it what it will. But those of us who know the source of all good gifts need not submit to national Thank You Day followed by a shopping frenzy.

At LPC we will gather Sunday and give thanks to the Father of lights (for gracious gifts, not good luck). On Thursday many of us will be with family and friends. May our prayers said, hymns sung and Scriptures read reflect our deep thanks to God.

See you Sunday