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Thanksgiving: A Gospel Guide

November 23, 2016

The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of food to stir our senses and move us to a deeper understanding of the all-satisfying nature of the glory of our Lord Jesus. Consider these verses:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5).

The way we as humans relate to food is but a small picture of how we are to relate to Christ. This imagery speaks to us because – let’s be honest – we love food. We love it, and we need it. There is nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter night or a crisp, healthy salad on a hot summer day. And there is nothing quite like Thanksgiving: the feast to end all earthly feasts!

As we prepare to gather with family and friends this Thursday, let us keep in mind that every aspect of Thanksgiving offers us a glimpse of God’s goodness toward us. If we unpack the good gifts of the holiday, we’ll see that they reflect, at their deepest level, the gospel.

Preparation and Planning

Though it can feel hectic, it’s fair to say that many of us enjoy preparing for big holiday events. There’s a sweet anticipation in planning the Thanksgiving meal, drawing our grocery lists, assigning duties, preparing our homes, and setting the table. Our anticipation points to the culmination of the holiday.

Before time began, God had prepared a sovereign and wise plan for the salvation of the world (Ephesians 1:9-10). He planned to unite all things in Christ, “things in heaven and things on earth,” and would do so by sending his Son to walk the earth as a human. He planned that Christ would humbly lay down his life for his friends, dying the death they should’ve died in order that they would receive his life. He planned to send his Spirit on those who believed in his name by faith. Christ also said that he would prepare a place for his sheep in eternity (John 14:2-3), that where he is we may be also.

So our planning and our preparations for this Thanksgiving are a reflection of what God has done for us in the gospel. His anticipation of the salvation of believers in Jesus points to the eventual culmination of all things: the new heaven and new earth.

Invitation and Gathering

Similarly, for many Americans, Thanksgiving represents an opportunity for friends and family, normally scattered, to gather in one place. The holidays are perhaps the second greatest opportunity, outside of weddings, to gather loved ones. We call our relatives, extending invitations to our homes, or we are the ones invited to gather elsewhere.

In the gospel, Christ calls. He did not absorb God’s wrath on the cross; he did not rise to life; he did not ascend to the Father only to sit back and see if dead sinners would respond. A response from a dead person is impossible! No, Jesus says, “Come to me.” He brings to life those who are dead. He lovingly invites us to put our faith in him, to be saved, by calling us in the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16).

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus is the living water, and he invites us to come and drink of his salvation freely.

So our earthly invitations are but a reflection of the image of God in calling sinners to himself, to faith in Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, consider to what lengths God went to redeem you from death. If you’ve not known this Christ, what is keeping you from coming to him wholly and completely? He calls you to come. Don’t wait another day.

Feasting

Now for every American’s favorite part of Thanksgiving: the moment when we take our seats around the table and pass the food. This is a long-awaited moment, as Grandma’s sweet potato casserole and the roasted turkey make their rounds. We eat until we are satisfied.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8). Food satisfies for a time, but several hours later our hunger proves that we need more of it. The steadfast love and faithfulness of Christ, however, satisfies totally and eternally!

The person who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). Christ nourishes our deepest desires by giving to us himself: holy, perfect, loving, kind, faithful, strong, true, and eternal. He is the solid rock on which believers stand, steadfast and sure. Nothing else, not even the greatest Thanksgiving feast, compares to his glory!

Christ alone satisfies. Nothing on this earth, not even the richest of feasts, compares to his glory. What worldly pursuits are you seeking to be satisfied by, which will only leave you wanting more? Confess these to the Lord, and ask him to fully satisfy you with himself.

Celebrating

Thanksgiving will be an unfortunate, vain pursuit if God’s glory is not held as supreme: in our minds as we pray and meditate on the gospel, and on our lips as we profess God’s goodness and praise him for the miracle of his Son.

When we celebrate and proclaim the greatness of God, extolling his power and glory, confessing his name to unbelievers, and welcoming others into his presence by our hospitality, we bring glory to him and find ourselves infinitely more satisfied than any mere Thanksgiving feast can provide.

So whether you’re the one planning or the one receiving; whether you’re the one calling or being invited; whether you go for round two, or save room for dessert; may the gospel be on your mind and on your lips this Thanksgiving. And may all the glory be to God!

[Photo Credit: Flickrcc.net]

The Author
Kristen Wetherell

Kristen Wetherell is a writer and Bible teacher. She has previously served as content manager of Unlocking the Bible. She is the author, along with Sarah Walton, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). She blogs at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter. She and her husband Brad are parents to their sweet daughter and members of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Itasca, Ill.



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