Thanksgiving Eve 2019
Anxiety doesn’t take a vacation. Even though it’s Thanksgiving and we’re supposed to be thankful for what God has given us, there’s still a part of us that’s anxious, that’s worried. You know what you’re worried about, what’s distressing you. It’s hard to be thankful while something is hanging over your head.
We know what we confess in the explanation of the Creed, that God gives me body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and my senses, and still takes care of them. We know that He also gives me clothing and shoes, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.
But what about this, God? What about the anxiety I have? What about the peace I’m lacking? Why this discomfort, God? Why this dread of what’s going to happen next? If You really provide all I need, if You really guard, defend, and protect me, why does it feel like I’m under attack?
We easily get sidetracked by problems. When we get sick, we wonder if we’ll ever get better or if this is the new way of life. When money runs low, we wonder what we might have to resort to so the lights can stay on and the kids can be fed. When depression gains the upper hand we wonder if we’ll ever feel happiness again. When sin does what it does best, pointing us away from God and His gracious promises, we easily lose hope. We wonder if God really promised to give us all those things. We wonder if God cares.
Jesus reveals the Father’s will and love to us. Remember what He said: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
And there’s the key: Are you not of more value than they? And the answer, of course, is yes! You are worth far more than the birds of the air. God didn’t redeem birds. God didn’t send His Son as a bird. God sent His Son as a man, as your Brother, to bear your sin and be your Savior. And on top of that, if God takes care of birds, if He provides for them day in and day out, will He not provide for you? Certainly He will!
Caring for you doesn’t mean your troubles go away instantly. Caring for you means not abandoning you. When the distresses of life come, when anxiety cripples and fears annoy, know that you are not alone. Your High Priest, Jesus Christ, sympathizes with you in your weakness. He was tempted in every way just as you are. He knows what it is to be overwhelmed, to be angry, to want to lash out, to feel like nothing or that no one cares about you. He is with you in the deepest pit of every despair imaginable. He is by your side because He is your Brother and your God.
It’s difficult to be thankful when you’re in the middle of things that are unpleasant. That’s why tonight’s Old Testament Reading is important as well. Through Moses, God is telling the people of Israel about presenting offerings of the bounty that the land brings forth. God tells them that they will worship before the Lord and rejoice in every good thing which the Lord gives. Now, these aren’t instructions given on the brink of taking over and inhabiting the Promised Land. That’s still forty years away. They were told what awaits them. Some day they will have their own land. Some day they will have a bountiful harvest. Some day there will be peace. The Lord told them to look ahead to what He would give them. He is faithful to His promises. So, the people gave thanks that some day they would give thanks.
It sounds convoluted, but it’s the same for us today. God certainly gives us good gifts now. But He has promised that the ultimate gift of being released from all of this world’s distress is coming. Whether we die before He returns, or He returns while we are still living, the end is the same. He will take us to be with Him. What eats at us in this world will be no more. Sin and its effects will be done away with. The lion will lie with the lamb. The enemies will be reconciled. The anxieties will be silenced. The depression will be lifted and destroyed. Today we give thanks that some day we will give thanks eternally.
Even though anxiety doesn’t take a vacation, neither does God, your loving Father. He is with you always to lift up your head, to give you songs for sighing, dancing for weeping. He gives us reason to be thankful, even if it seems like we can’t be. Some day we will see clearly how deep His love for us is. Thanks be to God for all He gives us, those things we do not deserve, and the grace to endure in this life until we receive the life to come.
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Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.