Originally posted to Facebook on Thanksgiving Day, 2014:
Today we celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving.
Many people have no idea what Thanksgiving is really about.
Some of these people are easy to spot. They have a day off work, they eat, they drink… it seems that for many of them, the day is not intended to give thanks to humanity’s Creator, but rather, to the pagan god Bacchus.
However, some of the people who have no idea what Thanksgiving is really about are not so easy to spot. They say prayers over their feast, perhaps after having attended a church service, and give thanks for what they believe their blessings are.
When faced with problems in life, it is certainly important to accentuate the positive. Seeing how many things go “wrong”, we can draw a degree of strength by seeing how many things are going “right” – from “counting our blessings” and giving thanks for them to the Lord.
But, do we really understand what our blessings are?
The Lord does not see things as we see them. We may think that wealth and comfort are blessings, but indeed, only with God can these things be blessings. Too often, we have these things without His close involvement in our lives, and they become traps for us. Complacent, we stop doing His work or considering His ways and, though there is a great spiritual struggle ongoing, we are no longer taking part in it. Often, wealth and comfort are the rewards of this world from the one whom we allow to rule this world, and these rewards are for being on the wrong side of the entire issue.
Christ advised us that we must take up our crosses and follow Him; He told us that in this world, we would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer, since He had overcome this world. When being interrogated by Pilate, Christ confirmed that He is indeed a King, but then pointed out that His Kingdom is not of this world.
If you do not recall the Biblical passages to which I refer in the previous paragraph, perhaps it has been too long since you last read your Bible.
In ancient Eastern philosophy, the question arises as to which is more dangerous, success or failure. It is pointed out that whether one goes up the ladder or down it, one’s position is shaky; to properly ascend, one must keep both feet firmly on the ground.
Translated, this means that Earthly success is only safe for us when it is firmly rooted in Christ. Otherwise, we can ascend the ladder, but our position is shaky; the higher we get, the greater the potential for damage from a fall, and the more intoxicated we may become with the heights, making such a fall more likely. To be sure, this fall may not occur in this life, but does that possibility not make a fall even more dangerous, since it would then occur in the next life?
As we give thanks to our Lord this Thanksgiving (and every day), we should pay particular attention to giving Him thanks for the trials and tribulations that we have in this world.
Sometimes, these trials and tribulations come to us as the just punishments for what we have done wrong. We need to accept these corrections from our Creator, because He corrects those whom He loves.
Christ was crucified between two criminals; one of them reviled Him, and told Him that if He is the Christ, He should come down from the cross and save Himself and them. Yet, the other criminal rebuked the first one, pointing out that the two of them were suffering justly because of their wrongdoings, but then, indicating Christ, affirmed that “this Man is innocent.” Then, turning to Christ, he confessed Him, and asked Him to remember him in His Kingdom.
And so, as we go through our trials and tribulations, we should be careful that we not revile Christ, nor kiss Him as Judas did, but rather, like the thief on the cross who rebuked the other, we should confess Him and ask Him to remember us in His Kingdom.
When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, and then heard the Lord approaching, Adam hid in the bushes. And the Lord asked Adam where he was.
It is important to consider this carefully. Wasn’t this God? Didn’t He know where Adam was? Why would He have to ask?
The question was not for the Lord’s own edification, as He obviously knew exactly where Adam was and what Adam had done. Rather, the question was for Adam to ponder: Adam, where are you, and what have you done? Adam, are you helping matters by hiding from the Lord, Who is the only One Who can truly save you?
We all make mistakes; we all fall short. We are all sinners, unworthy of the gifts which God has so richly bestowed upon us. Yet, Christ assures us that God has created a place for us with Him in His Kingdom, and that it is His good pleasure to give us this Kingdom.
Therefore, no matter how far from the Lord we wander, and no matter what evil things we have done, we should approach Him with confidence. He knows exactly where we are, He knows the danger we are in, He knows how we have goofed things up… indeed, He knows these things far better than we do. Yet, it is His good pleasure to work with us to fix things. We just need to step out from behind that bush and say to the Lord, “Here I am!” Though we are unworthy, all we need is for Him to say the Word; and that Word has existed since before time even began.
And, if this is what is in store for us as sinners when we approach the Lord, how much more thankful should we be when we suffer tribulations in this life though we have given those who try us no cause. Indeed, as the thief on the cross who confessed Christ said, “This Man is innocent.” Thus, if we suffer though we are relatively innocent, then to the extent that we suffer as innocents, we are sharing in Christ’s suffering, so our thanks for such trials and tribulations should be even greater. And make no mistake about it: suffering for us as relative innocents is also just, since at one point or another we have all shared in crucifying Christ.
So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we should make sure we jump out from behind the bush where we are hiding and say to the Lord, “Here I am! Thank You for everything!”
In fact, we should probably get into the habit of doing this every day, and even every moment, because in so doing, we may find ourselves taking root in Christ, being elevated to heights which are far loftier than we can imagine, yet which are not dangerously intoxicating.
In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.