Click here for the prayer plan that Pastor Andy referenced during this sermon.
I have to say that I like that this year we have an extra Sunday between Thanksgiving and the start of Advent. While this past Friday kicked-off the official Christmas season with Black Friday and then we had Small Business Saturday and not to be left out tomorrow is Cyber Monday, at least in the church this year we don’t have to start the Advent and Christmas season this weekend, instead we can actually take one more week to give thanks.
If you were with us for the good life series we just finished, you will remember that we learned the single most important key to living the good life was gratitude. The more we give thanks – the better perspective we have in life, the better we feel about ourselves and the healthier we are physically. So it is good that today our focus can still be on gratitude. Even if you have already jumped into the Christmas season with shopping and decorating and getting a tree, this can still be a moment of giving thanks and learning how to develop a lifestyle of thanks-giving.
To live a life of thanks-giving we need to focus on three things, the three R’s of giving thanks – Remember – Repeat – Return. We find these steps from a psalm of David found in 1 Chronicles 16. David wrote this psalm when the Ark of the Covenant was first brought to Jerusalem. The ark had traveled with God’s people during their time in the wilderness and then had been cared for by the priests in the town of Shiloh. At one point when Israel had been defeated by the Philistines the ark was captured and held for several months but then it was returned to Israel and for 20 years it was housed in the town of Kiriath-Jearim. When David became king and made Jerusalem the capital city he moved the ark there and on its arrival they gave thanks to God using this psalm:
1 Chronicles 16:8-36.
While the psalm was written for a very specific occasion, it shows us how to create a lifestyle of giving thanks and the first thing we need to do is Remember. Look at 1 Chronicles 16:8-9. Remember what God has done. Remember God’s wonderful acts. But we also need to remember who God is. Remember God’s holy name.
There are many different names given to God in the Bible and each name tells us something about who God is. God is known as Yahweh which means I am who I am. This was the name God gave himself when he met with Moses at the burning bush and it tells us that God simply is. As the I AM, God is eternal, God is ever present and God is the author of all things. Since God is the great I AM, everything we have comes from God and so for all we have and who we are, we give God thanks.
Another name for God is El-Shaddai which means God Almighty. This name tells us that God is the source of all power and strength and that we are nothing without God. While being the Almighty, we do not need to stand in fear of God because Jesus told us that we can call also call God Abba which means Father. Actually a better definition would be Daddy. Jesus gave us this name for God which tells us that God is relational and loving and wants to be near us and lovingly care for us as a father cares of his children. This too brings about thanks and praise for who God is.
Another name for God is Elohim which means Strength. God not only is strength but this name tells us that God is the one who gives strength. This is so important for us understand because so often in life we try to be strong in ourselves or think we need to be strong by relying upon our own wisdom and ability and our own inner fortitude, but trusting in our own strength will not get us very far. We will come up empty every time. We need to remember that God is strength and so if we need strength we need to ask God for it and find it in him. In fact, the children’s song Jesus Loves Me tells us this. We are weak but He is strong.
That song also gives us one more name for God which is Love. 1 John 4 tells us that God is Love. God is the source of all love so if we want to experience love in our lives and love one another we need to turn to God to find this love. All the names of God remind us who God is, which in turn causes us to give thanks, but David also tells us to give thanks for what God has done. 1 Chronicles 16:12
The ark was a visible reminder of all that God had done for his people and as they watched it carried into Jerusalem they would have remembered Gods work as creator, sustainer and redeemer. In the Ark of the Covenant was the rod of Aaron which was a staff carried by Moses and Aaron to do miracles when the people of Israel were still in Egypt. Moses used the staff to bring on the miracle of the plagues and to part the red sea and so the staff reminded the people that it was God who heard the cry of his people and it was God who took his children and created a nation. The ark reminded the people of the work of God as creator.
Inside the ark was also a jar of manna which reminded the people that it was God who sustained his people for a generation in the wilderness. The manna was a symbol of God’s daily provision and the constant guidance and patience that God showed his people. And the ark itself was a symbol of God’s redeeming work. It reminded the people that God delivered them from slavery.
So the ark was a symbol of God’s work as creator, sustainer and redeemer and we develop a lifestyle of thanks-giving when we remember God as our creator, sustainer and redeemer. God is our creator, the one who gives us life and put us in the midst of the splendor and beauty of the world. This psalm draws our attention to this when David says,1 Chronicles 16:31-33. All the earth has been created by God and sings God praise and when we remember this it moves us to lift our voice and give our thanks and praise.
We also need to remember that God is our sustainer. Every day God gives us what we need for life. God gives us light and air and food and family. God is the one gives us the ability to work and serve and love which sustains not just our bodies but a life of purpose and meaning. God sustains us and this helps us give thanks.
God is also our redeemer, the one who offers grace and mercy so that we can experience forgiveness and new life here as well as the promise of eternal life to come. David reminds us that God is our redeemer in 1 Chronicles 16:34-35. David specifically says when we remember that God has delivered us it will cause us to give thanks.
It is also important for us to remember what God has done for us personally. How has God moved in our own personal lives? Where have we seen God move in our family or in our friends? When we can name what God has done for us, when we can give this kind of personal testimony, it moves us in real ways to give thanks. On this weekend of giving thanks, I invite you to once again name something that God has done for you that you can identify and give thanks for. Remembering what God has done will open the door to a lifestyle of thanks giving.
We need to remember who God is and what God has done but we also need to remember what God will do or the promises God has made. David tells us this in 1 Chronicles 16:15-18. David is asking the people to remember the promises God had made with the people. God promised to give his people land, God promised to be a blessing to the people and God promised to be present with them forever. The people did have a part to play in this covenant – they were to worship God, but even if the people failed – God would not. God was, is and always will be faithful to his promises. God remembers and fulfills his covenant and when we hold on to those promises it will cause us to give thanks.
One promise God has made is that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus said, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age, and in the psalms God says that there is no place we can go where God is not there. If we go to the heavens – God is there. If we go to the depths of the earth – God is there. If we think the darkness and failure of our own lives will keep God away it says that the darkness shines as bright as the day. God is always with us. This is the promise God has made that we need to hold to and when we realize we are never alone – it causes us to give thanks.
So as we remember all this it moves us to give thanks. When we remember who God is, what God has done and the promises God has made and what God will do in our future, it fills our hearts and minds with gratitude and creates a lifestyle of thanks-giving. Remembering all this is so important that God says, do it again, and again and again. Remember is actually the command given most often in the Bible which means that to create a lifestyle of thanks giving we need to remember and then Repeat. David puts it this way, 1 Chronicles 16:23.
Day after day we need to proclaim God’s work of salvation and sing God’s praise. Day after day we need to remember God’s glorious deeds among the people. Day after day we need to thank God for what he does in our lives and how God is working in our world. Daily repetition is important and this is a disciple we can establish. To help with this, we have put in the lobby a handout of Praying the names of God for 30 days. Each day gives a different name for God and helps us remember who God is and what God has done. This can help us repeat the act of remembering for a month which helps create a habit or lifestyle of remembering and giving thanks.
Remember, repeat and Return. The last step in developing a lifestyle of giving thanks is to return to God with an offering of our hands and our heart. David says, bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness - 1 Chronicles 16:29b. We are to bring an offering and worship the Lord. We are return to God with the gift of our hands and the gift of our heart.
In this season of gift giving – what gift we can give to God? What offering of our hands and heart can we give to God in this Advent and Christmas season? The gift of our hands may be a gift of food, a gift of time, a gift of money, a gift of serving others or our community. There are so many ways we can make an offering to God and today you can begin by signing up to give or help with the Christmas Dinner. I am always encouraged by the outpouring of support and help that we see through the dinner and it is a wonderful opportunity for us to give back on Christmas Day to the one who gave himself for us on that first Christmas Day.
Another offering we can make is to our Christmas Eve offering. Each year we give away our entire Christmas Eve offering and invite people to make a gift to some of the most vulnerable and needy people in the world. This year our offering will be going to an organization called Partners that works with refugees we don’t often hear about which means they often don’t get help and support.
The people we are helping this year are the Rohingya people who have been forced out of their homes in Myanmar. While we seldom hear about their situation on the evening news, these people are being systematically killed and the UN has said it is a text book example of ethnic cleansing. These refugees are living in camps on the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh where Partners is serving them. You will be hearing more about this but this is one way we can return to God with an offering.
While an offering of our hands is important, an offering of our hearts is probably even more vital. Worship the Lord, David says and worship is the practice that truly can shape our hearts and lives and lead us to a lifestyle of thanks – giving. While this season of the year is always busy, I want to invite you to return to the Lord and worship with us every Sunday during Advent.
Don’t Miss It. Don’t miss the moments God gives us to remember who he is. Don’t miss the opportunity to love God and be loved by God. Don’t miss the music of this season which tells us of the wonderful things God has done. Don’t miss the presence of God in this season of buying and giving presents.
Remembering who God is, what God has done and the promises God has made is essential for a lifestyle of giving thanks – but that remembering needs to be more than thoughts and prayers, it needs to be turned into the actions of our hearts and hands. So yes, we need to remember and repeat but then we need to return to God with the gift of our hands and our hearts as an offering to God. This is the lifestyle of giving thanks. Let us close the way the people did generations ago: Let all the people say:
Praise the Lord!
• Who God Is.
o What names for God do you know?
o Pray 30 Names of God during Advent. (handout in the lobby)
• What God has done.
o God is creator, sustainer and redeemer. What does this work mean to you?
o Identify what God has done in your life or the life of your family.
• The promises of God.
o Name some of the promises of God.
o What promise of God do you need in your life today
• Use an Advent Calendar to not only look forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth but as a reminder to name who God is, what God has done and to give thanks.
• Your hands
o What offering can you give to God in this season of the year?
o Consider giving to the Christmas Dinner or this year’s Christmas Eve offering to help refugees.
• Your heart
o Commit to being in worship each week during Advent.
o Consider serving others by helping at our Christmas Eve worship services. Stop at the connection table or contact Cassie.