Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Robert Grossmann Providence Reformed Church Let us give thanks for Thanksgiving. The United States is really different; we are quite out of step with most other nations in the world. While citizens of other nations are fasting or making sacrifices to seek the favor of their gods, or living in fear of tyrannical governments, here in the United States we are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. And we celebrate these peaceful holidays not with sacrifices, but with feasting.
Why are we so different? We celebrate not what we can give to God, but what God has given to us. Thanksgiving Day celebrates the rich bounty of food and resources that God supplies to us through the earth to support human life. Christmas celebrates the gift of God's own Son, who came to provide the forgiveness of sins for mankind.
These two main Christian holidays (Thanksgiving was invented by the Puritan founders of Massachusetts) have become two of America's main national holidays, and they express a very special idea about God and our relationship to him. This idea is that human life and happiness are gifts, gifts of material blessings and of the forgiveness of sins that God gives to those who trust in his son, Jesus Christ.
But America is much more than a nation that celebrates holidays. It is a nation of unique and unprecedented liberty, opportunity, peace and prosperity. What needs to be understood is that our unique blessings are closely connected with the view of God on which our nation is based.
The founders of the United States believed passionately in the liberty of each individual. They were willing to lay down their lives to obtain such liberty, because, as they said in the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ?"
These rights are not given by any human agency, including governments, and therefore are not to be trifled with or taken away by anyone, including the government.
It is fundamentally true that America's unique blessings are the direct result of our government's protection of individual life, liberty and property, and that we have done this as "one nation, under God."
But the founders of the United States also sought to deal with another problem, that of human sinfulness. Every one of us loves himself more than we love others, and even if we don't engage in openly criminal actions, we all want things done "our way." To counter this sinful self-interest, also on the part of government officials, the founders of the United States limited government power and established checks and balances within the governmental system.
The Bible's method of dealing with human sin includes government (see Romans 13) but it also includes something much more precious, and that is God's offer of the forgiveness of sins to those who believe that his son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins.
This is why the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas so easily became a national holiday with almost every school, statehouse and the White House sporting a Christmas tree.
In the United States we have many things for which to be thankful, and these things include holidays of thanksgiving to God, both for the enormous material gifts he has given us, and also for the gift of his son, Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to God for Thanksgiving!