The text is the Old Testament Reading from the book of Lamentations.
There is a dangerous aspect of Thanksgiving of which you should be aware. For generations, America has been setting herself up for a fall. She has let herself remain immature in the area of Thanksgiving, and so has remained weak.
This weakness has to do with how Americans celebrate the holiday. Everybody surrounds themselves with relatives and friends, they bring out the best food and drink, and they stuff themselves with a feast of overabundance.
Then everyone asks, "Are you thankful?" Well, of course! Who would not be thankful at a sumptuous banquet of delicious food? It is no challenge to see the Creator's gracious hand when you sit down to a feast.
Now don't misunderstand. Don't give up your Thanksgiving traditions. Don't feel guilty for enjoying your Thanksgiving meal. Enjoy God's blessing as you always do.
But the real question is, are you thankful whether you sit down to great abundance, or whether you sit down to very little? If you habitually give thanks at great blessing, you might be training yourself to not give thanks when there is scarcity. In fact, you may learn to grumble and complain when there is lack.
You may have wondered tonight at the choice of Lamentations as a reading for Thanksgiving. The two things seem contradictory. To lament and weep seems incompatible with thanksgiving and praise.
According to tradition, Jeremiah the Prophet wrote Lamentations soon after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Captivity of the Israelites by the Babylonians. The Holy City had been conquered and laid waste. The Temple of God had been trampled and desecrated by pagan Gentiles. The children of Israel, God's chosen people, were led away as captives into a foreign land. What blacker day could there be?
Jeremiah wrote his Lamentations of sorrow for the terrible anguish of those days. Yet the center and heart of Lamentations is this little song of hope, which is the Old Testament Reading tonight, praising the mercies of the LORD, giving thanks that His tender love never fails:
"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I hope in Him!' The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him."
What a marvel of grace, that Jeremiah's lips were opened to speak of the mercy of the Lord, even on the darkest of days! The Prophet gave thanks when there was no earthly reason to do so! He did not sit down before a giant cooked bird. He dined upon ashes and tears. Yet, he spoke of mercy and compassion.
Shall you do less? Giving thanks tomorrow is no real test of your thankful heart. When tragedy strikes, when towers fall, when the sun turns black and your heart turns cold and bitter; shall you say with Job, "Blessed be the Name of the Lord"?
You should strive to see your life in the right way. Through Jesus Christ, your life is good and blessed, whatever the outward circumstances. In the Cross, the mercy of the Lord towards you is constant, not wavering with every turn of events you experience. The Lord's kindness is not fickle like the human heart. He always loves you, and His love is always powerful.
Your sinful nature wants to say that when times are bad, God is angry with you. But that is not so. Through the Death and Blood of Christ, the Lord's attitude toward you is always grace and favor. He always is pleased with you as His dear child. You cannot sin so greatly that it changes the Father's loving heart toward you. For the Cross is too mighty to be overcome.
Even on the darkest of days, God has not abandoned you. His never-ending compassion is strongest when you feel pain. When He seems most distant, He is actually the closest. For those He loves, He disciplines. Hard times are a sign that you are true sons of the Father.
Besides, Christ your Brother understands any sufferings you may feel. He suffered hunger in the wilderness, while the tempter came to Him. Yet Christ did not grumble or complain. As a perfect Son, He was thankful to His Father, even then. Since He was perfectly thankful, then you are perfectly thankful in God's eyes.
Christ lived without a roof over His head. He lived without riches or luxuries. Yet He did not question His Father's love.
In the end, Christ suffered pain, and even death. He suffered on the darkest Day of all, when the sun itself would not shine. He was forsaken as you never shall be, yet He entrusted Himself into the hands of His Father. He let the darkest Day fall on Him, so that your days will never be that dark.
As for you, you will give thanks forever, since the Lord has shown His grace towards you in His Son. Although days will not always be bright on this earth, He will raise you with His Son to a new earth that shall always be bright. There every meal shall be a feast to put Thanksgiving to shame. There suffering will not be remembered. There you will always give thanks for the overflowing wonders of your Lord's mercy, that to sinners He has given this everlasting Kingdom.
In His Name, from whom all blessings flow, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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