THANKSGIVING IS A HIGH HONOR!

I am doing a good bit of embroidery since last Christmas when my beloved husband gave me an embroidery sewing machine.  Although I am certainly not an expert in using the machine and all its features, I am enjoying my new-found hobby immensely. 

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We joke that the machine is the “gift that keeps on taking”!

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Because of the continuing costs of fabric, embroidery floss, stabilizers, and, of course, embroidery patterns there is some basis for this assertion. 

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I was looking at new designs and found many with Thanksgiving as the theme, understandably so since, in the United States, we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on November 22.

There were innumerable designs, many with expressions such as:

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

“A Grateful Heart is a Thankful Heart”

“O Give Thanks Unto the Lord”

“There Is Always Something to be Thankful For”

“Grateful Hearts Gather Here”

While it seems that our celebration of Thanksgiving often is more focused on the meal including the turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, the real foundation for our Thanksgiving is not food, not even a great harvest: it is in our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the book of Leviticus, we read:

“”And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil.  With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.”

Leviticus 7:11-13

Thanksgiving was a part of worship throughout the Old Testament.

“Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.”

1 Chronicles 16:7

“And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.”

Nehemiah 12:8.  These folks were specifically set apart to be in charge of the thanksgiving songs of the people in worship.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 50:23

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving continues to be extolled in the New Testament as well.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:4

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

Thanksgiving will continue even after the end of the age and we are in Heaven with God. 

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””

Revelation 7:9-12

Can you hear it?  Can you see it in your mind’s eye? 

Thanksgiving is not just something that is imposed on people.  Rather it is from the heart and it is ranked in the same category as “blessing”, “glory”, “wisdom”, “honor”, “power”, and “might”.  Listen as these words are sung in the Chorus “Worthy is The Lamb That Was Slain” as presented in Handel’s The Messiah. 

Thanksgiving is due to God because of Who He is and what He has done for His people.  Thanksgiving is due to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain, because of His atoning work on the cross that paid the price of our sin, satisfied the wrath of God against us because of our sin.  Thanksgiving is due to the Holy Spirit for His quickening of our hearts which had been dead because of sin, and for His leading and guiding us as we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Make thanksgiving the norm, the modus operandi of your daily walk.  Look for opportunities to give our Lord thanks throughout the day, however murky and disappointing it may be.  At a minimum you could thank Him for life, grace, mercy, and His unconditional and unfailing love … that should provide sufficient fuel for you to lift your eyes and your heart to Him, even as the day is swirling around you.

Blessings to you as you journey along your walk of faith. 

Father forgive me for the multitude of times that I have accepted Your gifts with open hands without so much as a whispered prayer of thanks.  Forgive me for the myriad of days that have passed through my fingertips without any acknowledgment from me that the day is, in itself, a gift from You, a gift for which I should be profoundly thankful. Lord, forgive me for accepting the gift of mercy and grace, of salvation and of Your love without even humbling myself so as to bow at Your feet in adoration and thanksgiving for the great work that You did in securing my salvation from my sin.  Lord, have mercy and forgive.

WORTHY IS THE LAMB

Often at Christmas time we hear Handel’s oratorio Messiah with the announcement to Mary and the shepherds.  “For unto us a child is born” and “Glory to God in the highest” and then the oratorio moves into the second and third parts with prophesies of the coming Messiah and affirmation that the Redeemer lives and is worthy to receive all power, and honor and glory.   All the words are taken directly from Scripture.

The Messiah is really the story of Christ throughout His life with the focal point being His rejection, suffering, death and resurrection.  It is, therefore, properly considered at this time of the church year, when Jesus’ passion, His sacrifice and His resurrection is center in our collective minds.   

In Part II we are directed to “behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”.  This is a direct quotation of John 1:29, the words of John the Baptist in reference to Jesus Christ.  

Then the alto sings Isaiah 53:3.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

After describing the misery that the Lord would endure for our sin, the chorus vividly describes mankind, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 ESV

The tenor presents the crucifixion and resurrection, after which the choir erupts into a chorus describing heaven when Jesus defeats death and sin. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”  Psalm 24:7 KJV

The oratorio continues by describing the mission of the Lord’s people, going into all the world preaching the gospel and then by telling of the rebellion to that Word.  “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”  Psalm 2:1 KJV  After questioning why, the soloists reveal the Lord’s response to mankind’s opposition: 

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. … Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:4, 9 KJV

At this point we hear the famous Hallelujah Chorus, proclaiming the power of the Lord God and that God’s kingdom will reign forever and ever.  This too is from Scripture, specifically from Revelation 19:6. 

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

It is at this point that the audience rises in honor of the majesty of the music and of its message. For many of us, this is the crescendo of the oratorio.

After a recent presentation Parts II and III of the Messiah, I found it interesting to think about the placement of the Hallelujah Chorus.  It is not at the end of the work, rather it comes immediately after describing God’s prevailing power over man’s revolt against Him and His Anointed One.  This should be encouraging for each of us. 

The Chorus certainly praises God for His authority over mankind, for the strength of His kingdom, in recognition of His power and of the inviolate guarantee that things that He has ordained will, indeed, come to pass.  His providence will not be thwarted by anything that man or any other created being can do.  In short, God wins!  Hallelujah!

But, this is not the only instance of praise in the oratorio. 

Part III of the oratorio begins with the soprano singing “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Job 19:25.  These words should bring praise to the lips of every believer in our Lord.   

The substitutionary atonement of Jesus is told when the choir sings “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

And the hope of everlasting life is described when the bass sings “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV

The final song is one that is sung in heaven:  “saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’”  Revelation 5:12 NKJV

Not only should we sing Hallelujah because God defeats sin and evil, we should continue our praise and worship of our God and of His Son by acknowledging and praising Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, for His work on the cross, for His atoning death and resurrection for us, for He alone is worthy to be praised. 

Here is a presentation of the song “Worthy is the Lamb” as found on the album Glory to the Holy One, words by Dr. R. C. Sproul and music by Jeff Lippencott.

I am including the text of the words for your reference:

The veil of heaven opened wide
The scene was clearly set
John saw a scroll writ either side
Where seven seals were met
With booming voice the angel said
To now unseal the scroll
But none was found to meet the task
Not even one lone soul

Refrain

Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb
Worthy, worthy is the Lamb who was slain

Convulsed with tears and broken heart
John’s hope was now assailed
“Weep not,” the elder counseled him,
“A Lion has prevailed!”
No lion came to take his claim
No beast of royal reign
Instead there stood a bloodied Lamb
Like one who had been slain

Refrain

Ten thousand times, ten thousand more
The host of heaven cried
All blessing, honor, glory, and pow’r
To Christ, the Lamb that died

Refrain

Christ the Lamb, who was slain

Father, during this time of the year when we consider the Passion of our Lord, I can do nothing other than fall at the foot of the cross in recognition that He has taken my sin upon Himself and I have nothing to bring other than a broken and contrite heart.  May my life reflect praise for my Lord and my King to whom all glory and honor belongs.