We recently passed through the holiday season and are probably breathing a sigh of relief and reflecting on the new year. Entering the holiday season is like pushing off down a ski slope: you move faster and faster and suddenly it's over. Everything's a blur until the end.
Traditionally, Americans gather together on Thanksgiving to feast on food and fellowship with family and friends. There's flying and fussing and football and fun, and the occasional prayer of thanks. Then we line up at the starting gate, otherwise known as Black Friday, for the sprint to Christmas.
For Christians, these two holidays are connected by more than chronological proximity. There is a Person Who is the link between Thanksgiving and Christmas: Jesus Christ.
We all agree Thanksgiving is a time for . . . well, thanksgiving. But what are we thankful for? And, most importantly, to whom do we express our thanks? True, we can thank those who prepared the meal, or the checker who rang up the turkey, or the volunteers who came to serve at the rescue mission, or a dozen other people. But is that all?
The Bible has over 200 verses on thankfulness, so it can be our trustworthy guide. Interestingly, we can go to the story of the "first" Christmas to find our answers for who to thank and what to be thankful for.
Luke relates the birth of Christ in the most detail. Here we see the reactions of angels, shepherds, his parents, and two elderly saints who were awaiting the Messiah. We will concentrate on Anna, who was very old and served in the temple for over 70 years. The record states: "Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel" (2:38).
Anna's reaction is a lesson to all Christians. She was eagerly waiting for the Messiah. Christians believe He came once, died on the cross for our sins, rose again, and will return to redeem the earth. Are we anxiously awaiting him?
Anna gave thanks. To whom? To Mary and Joseph? To the temple attendants? To the midwife? She gave thanks to God. As James says in James 1:17: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Everyone on earth who gives us something has gotten that something from someone else, and God is the provider of all. And, chiefest among His gifts is His Son, the Savior (John 3:16). The greatest "thanksgiving" springs from the greatest "Christmas" gift: Jesus Christ.
There is an additional lesson we can learn from Anna's reaction to the Savior. She "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel." Once she found the Messiah and thanked God for Him, she told others about the Gift. Whom among us can resist the temptation to tell our friends about that wonderful gift we got for Christmas? You know, that really expensive watch or fancy TV? You know, the things that you probably won't share and that will wear out in no time, long after your excitement wears off?
Christians proclaim that there is one Giver Who offers a Gift that will never wear out, that will remain long after the Thanksgiving leftovers. There is one Gift that merits excitement every moment and doesn't need recharging. There is one Gift that compels us to share it with everyone. There is one Gift that keeps on giving. The gift that makes every day Thanksgiving is eternal life in Jesus Christ.