Amid the tumult we’ve seen over the past week or so, the rush of the holiday season has begun. As protesters in Ferguson burned businesses, looted stores and blocked traffic, and as many Americans exchanged accusations of racism and bigotry, television advertising was amuck with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” commercialism. Thanksgiving seemed all but forgotten amidst the rush of news, misinformation and retail advertising as many American consumers looked ahead to Christmas even before the sun rose Thanksgiving morning. As I ponder the current state of our nation and the frenzied rush to feed our lust for material things, I’m tempted to despair. But as that temptation begins to overtake me, I am moved to seek God’s Word.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6-7
God’s Word reminds me that my hope is not grounded in humanity. My hope lies in Someone far greater than any human being or any human institution. That Someone, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, came to Earth to live, die, and be resurrected to save us from the very sin that is increasingly enveloping our society day by day. This passage from the prophet Isaiah is just one of many Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s promise to send His Savior into the World. That promise, given by God to men and women of all races, was fulfilled some 2,000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus.
Let us pray for our society. Let us pray for Michael Brown’s family and for Officer Wilson. Let us pray for awakening and revival. Let us pray for reconciliation. And as we do so, let us focus our minds and our hearts on Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promise, the Baby of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate in just a few short weeks. For true hope rests in Him and Him alone.
In this age of American consumerism run amok, as large retailers battle one another for our Christmas shopping dollars even on this national day of Thanksgiving, I hope and pray that each of us will use this day for its original intention:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Today, let us set aside our seemingly endless desire for more. Let us take stock of what we’ve been given and take nothing for granted. Let us look beyond ourselves to the Creator of all things, and humbly approach His throne in a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving. The shopping can wait. Today let us give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy as a nation, as families, and as freedom-loving Americans.
Thanksgiving postcard circa 1900 showing a turkey and football player. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” ~ Acts 12:21-22
Herod’s ego finally got the better of him. He granted an audience to representatives from Tyre and Sidon, which were two countries that counted on Herod for their food supply. These people were seeking peace. Herod dons his royal robes, ascends the throne and speaks to the people. The Scripture does not record his words, and they are not important. Whatever he said struck a cord with his audience, for they revered him as a god. Rather than redirect their praise to the true God, Herod basked in it, leading to his demise. He didn’t just die; God sent an angel to strike him down, after which the Scripture tells us he was eaten by worms.
Talk about crash and burn! Herod’s rapid descent from the top of the world to dinner for worms was all about his ego. Ego is hungry, and it can feel so good to have it fed. Make no mistake; we like to be praised for a job well done, and that is a good thing. It means we are impacting our world in a positive and productive way. We must always remember, however, that this life is not about us. It is about Him. When we receive praise or adulation for something we’ve accomplished we should immediately give thanks to God, for He is the source of all that we are and all that we have.
Ponder this: When does my ego get in the way of my witness?
My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You have gifted me with talents and skills so that I may serve You according to Your will. Thank you for those talents and skills, and help me to always remember that You are their source. Tune me in to my ego, Lord, and strengthen me so I may resist the temptation to bask in it. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.