Thanksgiving for Christmas
Giving the Greatest Gift
“Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they
had heard and seen, as it was told them…And [Anna] coming in that instant she
gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption.”
Luk 2:20; Luk 2:38
The Gift of Thanksgiving
As we ponder the miracle and wonder of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ at this season, we ought to be overwhelmed with the mercy God has poured out upon us. How quick we are to murmur and complain, yet how slow to give thanks!
I encourage you to take some time, as you set aside all the clamor and complaints which surround us, and reflect on the wonder and marvel of the grace of God to you personally. How long has it been since you truly spent time counting your many blessings, instead of grumbling at the sorry state of affairs in our land? When was the last time you spent an hour (or even fifteen minutes) thanking and praising God for all His many blessings?
An Endless List
As I reflect on God’s matchless grace and abundant compassion on my life and begin to give Him the praise and honor due to His name for my blessed estate, I find that the list of things to be thankful for is without end. The more I dwell on it the more infinite His mercy seems to be. And in fact, by this exercise I find many of the troubles or trials that we presently experience to be inseparable from the blessings.
First and foremost, I stand amazed that Christ Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost,” which included even me. That God should love the unlovable, save the lost, sanctify the sinner, and use the useless is a miracle too great to fathom. I could join with the company recorded in Rev 5:9-10 for hours saying,
“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals;
for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by
your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people
and nation, and have made us kings and priests to
our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
Then I move on to thank Him for my family. How it was that in the providence of God I should have been given the wife and helper that I have is a never-ending source of amazement to me. What a friend and fellow soldier is my bride! How steadfast and enduring she has been through the years of trial and hardship. Yet she remains always cheerful and helpful, in spite of my multitude of failings and too oft ingratitude.
I think of our children–all five of them children of God–all growing in grace and truth, each exploring and finding the purpose and plan of God for their lives. How can one thank God enough for the salvation of an entire family? They have been blessed with health and strength, with talents and abilities by which their lives are useful in God’s hands. All but one have found their divinely-designed mate, a fellow believer and staunch ally for life. How can one give thanks for such grace?
As I continue, I think of my own nine brothers and sisters, all of them believers, each one finding God’s grace sufficient, and each out of their weakness being made strong. What a source of blessing they all are to me!
Beauty for Ashes
And then to think how, over the years filled with testings, trials, sorrows and griefs, God in His mighty providential care has turned, and continues to turn, each one to our spiritual benefit. How He has found for each of us a place of service and usefulness. How He continues to forgive our sins, refine our faith, and purify our lives. How pleasing it must be to Him when we give thanks for the afflictions He wisely allows into our lives, for His own purpose and glory. How tragic it is that we so often complain and yet, even after seeing how His hand turns sorrow into joy, we fail to give Him the honor and praise which is His due.
Through the years it has been my habit to read through the Psalms, especially during times of heartache and trouble, and to mark those promises or passages that give hope and courage with the date. I have worn out several Bibles, which I still keep, and when I look back on those notations, I cannot find one where God has not turned my night into day and my sorrow into joy. What confidence His past dealings with us ought to produce! What courage as we face the unknown future!
Who could assess the value of the faithful and loyal friends God has given through the years? Just as I was writing this I received a call from Nick Bacon–one of the faithful fellow warriors God has brought into my life–along with so many others. Many of you know that Nick is an American hero, Medal-of-Honor winner, and is now in a fight with cancer. Yet, ignoring his own battle, Nick has recently travelled to the aid of another fellow soldier, Col. Robert Howard, who is in hospice and also dying of cancer. What right does any man have to be able to be called a “friend” of such men?
How can we give thanks enough for the many of you who lift us up in prayer? Why would God move so many to give, so that we can carry the light of the Word of God to so many places? How can we begin to count the blessings each of you have made to our lives? You are the ones who have made it possible for us to send a small financial gift at this time to believers in Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Peru, and other places, just to let them know of your love and support at this time of year. How we thank God for your love and sacrifice in being part of this ministry!
So as I think on these things during this time of year, I encourage you to spend some time in giving the greatest gift you can give during this time. We all have the power to “continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). Don’t let this season pass you by without taking time to thank God for all His gifts. But above all…
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!” 2Co 9:15
May God make this the most thankful Christmas you ever had!
From Gene, Nan, and the whole Cunningham clan!