|Sunday, December 6, 2020|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
t is with great delight that I welcome you to the month of December 2020, our month of Thanksgiving and Celebration!
If there is one year we really loved and would have loved to stay just because of the rhythm of its name -2020, it is this year!
However, the challenges of the year have gone beyond the rhythm of the name of the year. It has been one of the most challenging years ever because of the unprecedented attack on humanity by coronavirus that has dramatically changed so many aspects of our daily living from social distancing, economic meltdown, to mask wearing, just to mention a few.
But guess what, the greater the battle the greater the victory! The scripture says "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness (coronavirus), and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" Col 1:12-13. Coronavirus shall pass away but you shall not pass away with it in Jesus' name.
What is thanksgiving? It is the act of giving thanks. Grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God. An expression of thanks, especially to God. Thanksgiving is a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness. Individuals, corporate bodies and even nations can offer thanksgiving to God. In our time Canada and USA celebrates thanksgiving the former in October and the latter in November. Thanks, and appreciation is one thing that we also express towards human beings as well as God. Parents are quick to teach children to say "Thank You" when they're given anything so, from a tender age we are taught to appreciate people who favor us. For Christians, Thanksgiving not only has a patriotic history, but it also has spiritual roots that go back to the Old Testament into the New Testament.
What is celebration? The action of marking one's pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity. To celebrate means to mark a special day, event, or holiday. You might celebrate a birthday, a religious holiday, or even the anniversary of a famous battle.
Why thanksgiving and celebration? The Yoruba's have an adage if you thank someone for what he did for you he will be willing to do more for you in future. God loves people who appreciate him. When Jesus healed 10 lepers only one came back to thank him. "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." Lk 17:16-19. You will notice when the Samaritan came to gives thanks he got more; he experienced holistic healing. This means when we thank God for what he has done we get more. The Psalmist after thanking God said He has "answered me...[and] become my salvation" (Psalm 118:21). He has redeemed us. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He has qualified us "to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Colossians 1:12)
We thank God for many reasons. They include His Creation Psalm 136:6-9; His people (1Thes 1:2); His word (Col 3:10); His forgiveness and healing Ps 103:2-3, His provision (Dan 2:23) His love (1 Ch 16:34). He is "faithful and just" (1 John 1:9).
We thank people for helping us particularly in times of distress. Children thank parents for paying their schools fees, financing their wedding, buying things, small and big for them. Parents also thank children for doing similar things for them. I remember how grateful my father was when I bought him a radio and freezer when I was a student and built a house for him when I started working. Friends appreciate each other for one assistance or the other. Many years ago, I was in England and helped an elderly lady to trim her garden (a task that I found out more tasking than I imagined) she continued to write to me, appreciating me until she passed on. One of our Pastors gave the testimony of how an elderly lady in Hamilton, who was childless willed her property to a boy who helped her to thank him.
We celebrate things and events as a mark of rejoicing for what God has done for us, these days on social media especially. Facebook has become one place where we display our celebration especially birthdays and anniversaries. While I am not against you celebrating on social media, I need to remind you it is God that has kept you alive, kept your marriages and you should remember to go to your church to thank God and appreciate God with a good offering. I am not against you also organizing a party and celebrating with your friends, again you must know it is not much about your friends but the bishop of your soul. Always know that it is God who has done good for you and celebrate God in your life.
Why some people don't thank God.
Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians with the history of a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.
Some people find it difficult to thank God. It is difficult for them to be grateful. Such people are called ingrates. Robert Emmons said "Research has proven that gratitude is essential for happiness, but modern times have regressed gratitude into a mere feeling instead of retaining its historic value, a virtue that leads to action." Just as great philosophers such as Cicero and Seneca conclude in their writings, "gratitude is an action of returning a favor and is not just a sentiment." By the same token, ingratitude is the failure to both acknowledge receiving a favor and refusing to return or repay the favor. "Just as gratitude is the queen of the virtues, ingratitude is the king of the vices."
Procrastination is another reason. Other have an entitlement mentality; they believe life owes them something. Why say "Thank you" when I already deserve it. Some lack a sense of consideration, few people value the contributions of others, which is why some don't give offerings in Church. For some it is superiority complex. They expect others to serve them. They would gladly say "Thank you" to people they consider important. For some people it is the issue of pain and suffering. They cannot pay attention to the possibility of anything being good, when their circumstances are dictating pain and suffering. Sadly, many Christians are in this category, we see what we are going through and what we want to become and forget what God has done. In a year when millions have died of coronavirus, it is important to appreciate that you are not better than those that died of this virus. Pastors, bishops, rich, highly placed people and poor people have died. It is Gods mercy that has kept you. Some are suffering from dissatisfaction; they feel God or people have not done enough for them. They always compare themselves with people ahead forgetting their colleagues below them. Find a reason to be grateful. Always remember gratitude is an attitude that leads people to their altitude!
How do I develop the attitude of thanksgiving and celebration?
Greg Smith said "there are three phases of a problem. The awareness phase, I have a problem, the evaluation phase, what went wrong, the decision phase what can be done.
Examples of people with a heart of thanksgiving.
David. One example that is very visible in the bible is David Jesse. One of the renowned Psalmists. Psalm 1-72 is credited to him. Most of these Psalms are full of just praises to God. Though God helped him in life and got him ordained as king three times but, he had a major enemy in Saul. He didn't focus on the problems he was full of praises to God so much so that God labeled him as a man after his own heart., Acts 13:22 says, "After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do."
Paul and Silas "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." Acts 16 25-26. Paul and Silas had "no reason" to be thanking God. They could have been offended with God. "We are serving you faithfully and here we are in prison!" If they did not complain, they could have done night vigil asking God to deliver them but, because they had an attitude of thanksgiving and spent time to praise, God delivered them.
Others (5) Miriam Moses sister (Ex 15:20-21, Hannah mother of Samuel (1 Sam 2:1-10); Solomon (1 King 8:14-21) Elizabeth mother of John the Baptist sang what the bible calls The Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55); Jesus before distributing bread (John 6:11) and before calling Lazarus from death Jn 11:38-44.
Conclusion. In a sermon at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Gary Wilburn said: "In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children: 'Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done, / In whom His world rejoices. /Who, from our mother's arms, /Hath led us on our way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today.'" Here was a man who knew thanksgiving comes from love of God, not from outward circumstances.
As the year 2020 is going to an end when millions have been buried and God has kept you, find a reason to appreciate God. Thank Him for keeping you alive, for his goodness, mercies and more. You have seen the beginning of this month as the Lord lives - you and I shall crossover to 2021 in Jesus name. Shalom!