“Happy Thanksgiving! Happy New Year!”

Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Fedderson:

Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44 or Matthew 21:1-11

This Sunday starts a new Church Year. We begin with Advent, one of my favorite seasons. It is a season that anticipates the celebration of Christ’s birth and also His second coming. It is traditionally a time for repentance, expectation and hope. As I write these words, I and others are anticipating a different event — Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is not a festival in the Church Year; it is a national holiday, declared annually by the President of the United States. If we look at minor festivals in the Church Year, we find “A Day of Special or National Thanksgiving.” Every day is a day for thanksgiving; this one is for “special” thanks.

As of Nov. 14, I have some very special thanks to give this year. I have a brand new granddaughter. One of my sons and his wife are the proud parents of a little girl. My other son has two boys, so this is the first girl and her own little reason for giving thanks. But her parents have had more than their share of sorrows on the way to this baby, having lost several others, and there will be great rejoicing and thanksgiving in our house this year!

At the same time, is there ever a time — no matter how much sadness there is around us — that we do not also have great reason for rejoicing and thanking God? I don’t think so. In the New International Version of the Bible, the phrase, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever,” appears six times in 1 Chronicles and Psalms. Portions of it and similar phrases appear many more times. It also appears in several liturgies of the church. I know that it is not a traditional or “liturgically correct” response, but I want to respond by saying, “That’s reason enough!”

God’s goodness and long-suffering love toward us is all the reason we need to give Him a constant flow of thanks. Advent is just one season in the Church Year that reminds us of God’s goodness. His long-suffering love is revealed every day that Christ’s return is delayed. It is one more day for the lost to be found, the prodigal to return, the sinner to repent.

As I anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth, on a day the church has chosen to celebrate it, I think very seriously about God’s goodness. This Sunday has two possible Gospel Lessons. In Matthew 24, we are reminded that “If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” In Matthew 21, we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

These lessons serve well to raise some unnerving questions. For instance, if the owner would prepare for the coming thief, why did Jesus go to Jerusalem knowing people there were out to get Him? The parable calls on us to use good common sense, so what sense does it make that Jesus, the Son of God and Co-Creator of the universe, should leave paradise, set aside all His power and riches, and become a dependent infant born in a barn?

The word “Advent” comes from an old Latin word meaning to “come.” I think the season demands that, more than simply celebrating Christ’s coming, we ask, “Why did He come?” The season demands that we face the ultimate truth. I will state it for you bluntly: you are the reason He gave up everything and came! You are also the reason He went to Jerusalem, knowing the fate that awaited Him there!

I thank God that Jesus also came to earth and went to Golgotha for me. But think about this for a minute: what person on earth knows you better than any other? The answer should be obvious that nobody knows you better than you do. You know everything you’ve ever done to give God plenty of reason not to love you. You know every unclean thought, every dishonest word, every evil act, every failure to do something good! Jesus also knows. Yet He came for you and went to the cross for you.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

An old story is told of Chanticleer, the rooster. He was a vain sort who prided himself on his accomplishments. Most of all, he congratulated himself for the sunrise, for, as anyone could observe, his crowing each morning caused the sun to appear on the horizon. Invariably, this was so. One morning, however, Chanticleer overslept. When he awoke he was surprised and chagrined. There was the sun, high in the sky, and it had gotten there without one bit of help from him. Thinking this over, the rooster realized that he could not honestly take credit for the beauty or the dawning of each day. But there was something he could do. Old Chanticleer said, “If by my crowing I cannot bring the dawn, then by my crowing I shall celebrate its coming!”

Maybe Advent is a time to crow. Human religions are designed to manipulate the spirits or some deity. That may not be how they state it, but it is true nonetheless. The thought is that if we perform certain rituals, do certain good deeds and avoid other actions and thoughts, the spirits or deity will bless us, not harm us. If we have any realistic concept of God, then we ought to know that we can no more make God come or go than Chanticleer could make the sun come up. But we can certainly celebrate His coming! We can thank Him for coming — not only when we couldn’t deserve it, but precisely because we couldn’t! We can thank Him for His goodness and love to us when we deserved His wrath and punishment.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.

There is one other theme for Advent that I would like to call to your attention. Paul says something similar in this week’s lesson from Romans. Advent is a season of increasing light. Each week another candle is lighted. As Paul wrote, “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Even the commercial season draws constant attention to the celebration. Activities increase; the pace quickens; the sounds around us are in a crescendo. A great opportunity is afforded God’s people to tell everyone what the light and activity and noise are really all about. We who know the goodness and long- suffering love of God can tell others what it means to us and, if they’re ready to hear, to them. His mission is our mission. Happy Thanksgiving! Happy New Year!

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