If you were asked to make a list of religious holidays, what would be on your list?
I would guess that Thanksgiving, if it appeared on your list at all, would not come in until way down on the list. Most people don’t consider Thanksgiving a religious holiday. Afterall, it’s all about eating too much, napping, watching the parade, watching some football, and, well eating some more. But, lets think about Thanksgiving for a little bit.
How did it all start? I bet many of our children can tell us all about the first Thanksgiving. The pilgrims, a religious sect who came to the new world in search of religious freedom, were the first to celebrate the holiday. They were giving thanks for survival in a harsh, new world; for a successful harvest; for new allies and friends in the Native Americans; and for new-found freedoms. And to whom were they giving this thanks? God, of course.
You see, the pilgrims realized the role that God played in their daily lives – in their very survival – much better than we do today. Today, we like to think that we are in complete control of our lives – well except when something bad happens. We tend to believe that we have what we have because of our hard work, our dedication, our sacrifices. We usually don’t give credit to God.
But the pilgrims recognized the presence of God in their lives and gave thanks to God for all that he had done for them. He kept them alive. He provided their daily bread. He sent them friends from the native Americans who helped them survive. He did not abandon them.
You know, it was our area’s very own George Washington who declared the very first national day of Thanksgiving. And what was the purpose of that day?
Washington declared that on November 26, 1789, our nation would have a day of “Thanksgiving and Prayer” to thank God for the opportunity that he gave us to form a new nation and for the opportunity that he gave us to establish a new constitution.
So you see, Thanksgiving may not have any biblical connection and was not established by the Pope or any religious authority; but, it certainly was established for a religious purpose – to thank God for all that he has done for us.
Now I know that none of us have perfect lives. We all have our troubles, we all have our burdens and shortcomings; but, we all have a lot for which to be thankful to God.
The list goes on and on. And not everything on that list is perfect; but, we should also be thankful to God that he gets us through our troubles and sometimes simply allows us to continue on – to be alive one more day.
Now, as we learned last week from Pastor Carol, today is Christ the King Day – the last day of the church year – on which we celebrate Christ as our King. The concept of having a king is foreign to most of us. After all, Washington was celebrating and giving thanks that we didn’t have a king. Our nation was founded on the concept that we would NEVER have a king to rule over us, to tell us what to do, what to believe, how to live. To levy taxes on us, to take away the fruits of our labor, and to send us off to wars so that his kingdom may be enlarged and his coffers overflowing.
But Christ did not come to us to be that type of King, did he? In our Gospel this morning, we hear Pilate interrogating our Lord on this point. Pilate asks him quite bluntly, “Are you a king?” Apparently, he couldn’t tell by the way Christ was dressed. He didn’t look like a king. He didn’t act like a king. He didn’t come with a royal entourage. But, then again, what would a Jewish king look like? Having a Jewish king was a foreign concept at that time. The Jews did not have their own king; but, they wanted one so that they could be like the other powerful nations. Pilate wanted to know if Jesus was the Jewish King.
Christ was not just another human king – who came to rule over his people, to tax them, abuse them, starve them, hold them under his thumb and to use them to fight his wars. He was not another earthly king who would rule for a period time and then disappear.
Christ responded to Pilate that his kingdom was not from this world. If it were, his armies would overwhelm Pilate and the Jewish persecutors. But you see, his kingdom is not from this world.
Pilate was apparently perplexed. So you are a king! He declared. Jesus answered him simply, “YOU say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” He was definitely not a normal king who wanted everyone to know how important and powerful he was, who flaunted his wealth and who demanded everyone to pay homage to him.
Christ came to be our king – not to tear us down but to build us up; not to rule with fear and intimidation but to rule with love and peace; not to demand sacrifices from us but to sacrifice himself for us, not to take everything away from us but to give us everything he has including his very life.
What other king in world history gave up his home and his possessions to be and live with his people? What other king gave away his treasury to the poor? What other king traveled on foot around the countryside to teach and heal his subjects? What other king ever gave up his own life for the lives of his people.
There were no others like him. His emperor’s clothes were linen rags. His scepter was a walking staff. His chariot was a pair of worn leather sandals. His crown was made of thorns. And his throne, his throne, was the cross. There were no other kings like Christ.
During this hectic season, we need to stop, really think about how blessed we are and we need to give our thanks for Christ. That he came to be our King. That he doesn’t expect us to fight for him; but rather, he fights evil for us. That he came and opened the doors of his kingdom and invited us all to come in. There’s no moat around his kingdom or drawbridge keeping people out. By grace, we are all welcome to come in. And we don’t have to pay any fees or taxes to enter into his kingdom. He has already paid the price for all of us.
When we get all caught up in the politics of our society especially living here so close to DC and we get troubled by the scandals, and the corruption, the lies, and the abuse of authority, remember who our true King is – who came here to save us and who sacrificed himself for us.
You know, maybe we should have our politicians and our government leaders attend some Sunday School classes and learn how they should be acting as leaders. What do you think? Maybe they could learn what it really means to serve their people, to make sacrifices, to meet the needs of the people, and to show their love to all people – even those of a different party. Wouldn’t the world be a different place?
That is why we give our thanksgiving. And that is why, through all the distractions and obstacles that we must face, we proudly proclaim, “That Christ is our King, and we are his people, and we will proudly serve him!” Thanks be to God.