1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Hebrews 12:28-29; Colossians 2:6-7
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
On September 6, 1620, the Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, and set sail for a new country, one where they could govern themselves, practice commerce as they wanted, and worship freely. For three months, the 102 seafarers braved the elements to arrive off the coast of what is now Massachusetts in late November. Before disembarking at Plymouth Rock on December 11, they signed the Mayflower Compact, America’s first document of civil government and the first to introduce self-government. Once they were on land, they held a prayer service and then got to work building shelters.
That first winter was brutal. Half the population died of starvation or disease. Morale was low, but the people persevered, and through prayer and hard work and with the help of the local Native Americans, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621. To celebrate their bounty, their neighbors’ generosity, and God’s graciousness, they held a three-day feast in the autumn that we still commemorate today as Thanksgiving. We also gather with family and friends and typically enjoy a big meal with some traditional dishes inspired by those served at the first feast: turkey, corn, and pumpkin. We express our gratitude for family, friends, home, hearth, and all our many blessings. We might enjoy some tag football in the front yard or a pleasant walk around the neighborhood. And then we go shopping.
If you are a certain age, you probably remember when stores were closed on Thanksgiving day. (Thanks to Blue Laws, this is still true in some states.) For decades they opened at 6 a.m. on Black Friday, but in the late 2000s some began pushing that to 5:00 or even 4:00 a.m. to increase shopping hours and profits. In 2011 several popular stores opened at midnight on Thanksgiving. Midnight became 8 p.m., then 6 p.m. In 2013, one retailer announced that it would open at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, but it faced harsh criticism on social media for its “shameful and disgusting greed.” Then there’s Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. But really, the holiday shopping frenzy begins before Halloween. Some people complain about the commercial push toward Christmas, but the stores, brick-and-mortar and online, are still full of shoppers desperate to grab that perfect or trendy item at the lowest possible price, even if it means camping out in front of a store the night before it opens or setting an alarm to beat everyone else to Amazon’s Deal of the Day.
Whatever happened to gratitude?
When we are truly grateful for what we have, we notice the desire for more tends to fade. When we focus on what we have been given, we see how rich we are, and perhaps we feel prompted to share with those who have been given less. When we embrace gratitude, we look for the blessing in every situation. “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul wrote. “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” We have received the most precious gift of all, not because of anything we have done. Not because we are worthy, but only because of God’s grace and mercy expressed by Jesus: abundant and eternal life. What will we do with our “one wild and precious life” (nod to poet Mary Oliver)? Will we spend it all on ourselves, striving for more? Or will we, with full and grateful hearts, pour ourselves out in service to our brothers and sisters?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship. Children’s worship and nursery care will be available.