“CELEBRATING THANKSGIVING”                     By Pastor YAU

Text: Deuteronomy 16:9-17                                       November 18, 2007.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   Thanksgiving in modern American: When America celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1627, that is 380 years ago, the early pilgrims offered thanksgiving to God for His blessings over their harvest. Most of the real reasons of celebrating Thanksgiving are forgotten today. People will use these 4-days holiday for shopping, travel, visit family and friends, have parties and enjoy good food. Let us see how God wanted the Israelites to celebrate The Feast of Tabernacles to find out how should we celebrate the Thanksgiving in today’s America.

2)   Thanksgiving in ancient Israel: Celebrating Thanksgiving in modern day America is very much like the Israelis celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in the Bible time. (Leviticus 23:33-44) It was a time to celebrate harvest and give thanks to the Almighty God for His blessings. God commanded His people to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (tents) for seven days so their children won’t forget how God brought their forefathers from the land of slavery into the land of freedom.

 

THANKSGIVING: A TIME TO REMEMBER.

1)    Remember our past: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and follow carefully these decrees.” (16:12)The background of celebrating the Feast of the Tabernacles (tents) is to remember who you were before and who you are now. Without knowing the past and compare it with the present, there is little meaning in celebration. When the Israelites “gathered the produce of the threshing floor and the winepress,” God asked that they needed to celebrate the harvest for seven days. (16:13)To gather the produce and the winepress is about the harvest today. God wanted them to compare what they have today to what they have not in the pass when they were slaves in Egypt.

2)    Compare to our present: We also need to have this kind of attitude: compare what you have today to what you didn’t have in the past when you first came to this country many years ago and give thanks to God for what He has blessed you today. There are people who “have nothing to be thankful of.” They never feel they have enough. They never feel thankful to God and to others for their achievement or harvest. From your good health, your family and friends, your career and your church, we should have many things to be thankful of. People without a grateful heart are miserable. So, look back and find out things you need to give thanks to God.

 

THANKSGIVING: A TIME TO SHARE.

1)    Share with family: “Be joyful at your Feast----you, your sons and daughters your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.” (16:14)God wanted the Israelis to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with their family and friends, with the priests, the poor and the needy so everyone have something to be thankful of. This is a good occasion to spend time with family after the busy season of work. People today spend so much time with their work, duties outside of their home, travel to distant places, away from home and family. It is important that we celebrate Thanksgiving with those who are so close to us, have helped us through the year and have shared all the ups and downs with us each and everyday.  Make family first in your Thanksgiving celebration.

2)    Share with the needy: God also commanded Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with the aliens, the poor, the fatherless and the widows. While we celebrate success and abundance, we need to remember and give to those who are less fortunate, have less than us, so they too may have a reason to celebrate the joyful feast. The Bible has so much to say about our duties to the poor and the needy. We are to give, to share our time and resources with those in our community who have needs.

 

THANKSGIVING: A TIME TO COUNT BLESSINGS:

1)    Count the blessings of God: “For seven days, celebrate the Feast to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands and your joy will be complete.” (16:15)No Thanksgiving will be complete without acknowledging the blessing of the Lord God in all our work and harvest. To claim all credits to ourselves is to eliminate the reason for celebration. It is God who gives us all we have and we need to be thankful to Him.

2)    Count the blessings of man: Many times God works through men and women close to us to help us get things done and to harvest results. Without counting the blessings done to us by those close to us is another way to ignore the contributions people made to help us to become who we are today. It is very important to be thankful to man as the early pilgrims gave thanks to the native Indians at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1627. Counting blessings is the center of this celebration. We certainly may count all the losses, all the setbacks, all the heart breaking experience and make life so miserable. At least once a year, we need to see the bright side of life by counting the blessings instead of the sufferings.

 

THANKSGIVING: A TIME TO GIVE TO GOD

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place He will choose. No man should appear before the Lord God empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” (16:16-17)

1)   “Thanks” is about giving to God: No giving, no thanks. Without giving, Thanksgiving is incomplete. Thanksgiving is a good time to bring gifts to God to show your heartfelt gratitude to God for His blessings.

2)   Giving is required of everyone: God did not ask we all give the same to Him to demonstrate our gratitude. He asked that we give to Him in proportion of His blessings. So everyone should give something to God for His blessings. No one may say he/she has not been blessed by God through the year.

3)   Give to God at His place: The best place to give your gifts is God’s house, His church. Since gifts belong to God and are not ours, we should follow God’s command to give to His house, the church.

4)   Gifts are given with joy: In 16:11 and 15, God asked that His people celebrate the Feast and giving of gifts with joy, great joy. God doesn’t need anything from us. He owns everything we have including our life. So, when we give to Him tithes and gifts, we must do it with gratitude and joy, a sense of thanksgiving.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)    Do you understand Thanksgiving?  The meaning of Thanksgiving is not about shopping, not about dinners, not about travel, not even about visiting family and friends. It is about counting blessing from God and give Him our due grateful thanks. It is a time to draw closer to God who makes all possible for our life and we should give Him thanks.

2)    Do you give at Thanksgiving? To receive is good but to give is much better because it means you have something you can give. So, this is the best time to give: give to God and people. Give to God with gratitude. Give to people with love. This si a good time to share God’s blessings with those who have less.

3)    Best gift at Thanksgiving: That is give God your heart. Let Him make you a new person by trusting His Son, Jesus, as your Lord and Savior and start a new life in the years to come.