Page 332 began early as it was after midnight when I finished writing page 331. When I finally got to sleep, Susan had a seizure during the night which woke all of us up. As MJ cared for her, I went back to sleep to get some rest before heading out to preach this morning. As I headed to Dowagiac this morning, there was a heavy frost covering most surfaces, including my truck windows which needed scraped before I could begin the trip. As the sun began to warm up the air, the evaporating frost created a haze that added to the morning beauty.
It was a good morning of worship with the North Wayne Mennonite Church and I shared another message in the “Living as the Lord’s Servant” series. Today I focused on the Lord’s servants, Simeon and Anna, written about in Luke 2 with a sermon, “The Lord’s Servants Give THANKS”. While the Christmas season is a time we most often look at the account of Simeon and Anna because of their response to Jesus, it would appear they lived a life of thanks so that the praise we read about is a natural outpouring of themselves to God. When we live as a servant of the Lord, our life ought to be one of thankfulness at all times. As I looked at this morning’s text, there were six things that we need to learn how to give in order to give THANKS at all times.
One of the keys to giving thanks, is to learn to give Trust. Until we learn to trust that God is looking out for our best interests, we will struggle with being thankful. Both Simeon and Anna could give thanks to God for sending Jesus because they had lived a lifetime of trusting God’s promise of a Messiah. Real trust has no time limit. Our willingness to trust God, and people, will be reflected in our ability to be thankful when we don’t fully understand their motives. We remain thankful because we trust.
Being thankful means that we give trust, but it also means that we give Hope. In the midst of their praise and thankfulness, both Simeon and Anna proclaimed a hope that is available to all who would hear and accept. Our life of thankfulness should be lived in such a way that a true message of hope is given to all who would hear our words and actions of thanks. Being thankful, especially in difficult times, proclaims to all who are watching that we have a hope that cannot be extinguished. As we offer expressions of thanks to God and to people, we shine a bright light of hope in a dark and dismal world.
As we give thanks, we also give Adoration. It would be nearly impossible to find a purer form of adoration that the worship offered by both Simeon and Anna when they saw the baby Jesus before them. Adoration by itself can be a form of thankfulness as we acknowledge the true worth of the one we adore. It seems like a typical response by most people to an infant is that they are simply adorable. What would happen to our level of thankfulness if that view of people never disappeared from our life? Would we be more thankful if we learned to adore God as both Lord and Savior as much as we adore Him as a baby in a manger? Would we give thanks to others more often if we could see them as adorable people made in the image of God?
If we are not finding much to adore, perhaps we need to work on the next aspect of giving thanks — give Notice. I’m not talking about turning in a notice that you are quitting work, or life, or whatever. No, I’m talking about paying attention to both God and people. Simeon and Anna were able to give thanks to God because they were paying attention to what was taking place in front of them. It is highly unlikely that they were the only people in the temple courts that day, but how many others noticed what was right before their eyes? If we want to be more thankful in our interactions with God and people, a good place to begin would be to start noticing all that you ought to be thankful for.
When it comes to expressing our thanks, giving Kindness goes a long way toward helping a person believe we are truly thankful. We have all probably had the occasion when someone, perhaps a child, has been forced to say thank you. We know, not only because it doesn’t appear to be genuine, but because we recognize the attitude from the times when we have said thank you and didn’t mean it. Simeon and Anna went beyond simply giving thanks to God for sending Jesus, they also expressed kindness in their interaction with Mary and Joseph. If we want a life of thankfulness that has meaning, it is important that we learn to express a visible kindness as we give thanks.
Finally, giving true thanks also means that we give Self. Simeon and Anna had both given themselves to God long before the day we read about in the second chapter of Luke. Their thankfulness to God, while expressed in words and worship on the day the encountered Jesus in the temple, had long before been expressed in the giving of themselves to Him. In fact, it is the giving of self that may well be the key to living a life that learns how to give thanks in all circumstances. It is not until we surrender our self to God that we begin to learn how to trust Him completely, how to have a hope that endures, how to really adore Him as we ought, how to notice His presence in our life, or how to even understand what true kindness looks like. When we decide to give self to God, we learn how to be thankful for His presence within us. And when we follow the example of Jesus and learn how to give self to others, we learn how to be thankful for who God has created them to be.
The photo I chose today is one I took yesterday on our covered bridge hunt. This bridge has had some help by the placement of a steel girder support system underneath it. It continues to function as a bridge today because of the support added by the steel framework. In many ways our willingness to give of ourselves provides a framework that makes it possible for us to be a person who gives thanks. We are too weak to be thankful in all circumstances as we ought to be, so God has placed beneath us the power of His Spirit to strengthen us and make us able to do all things through Christ — including giving THANKS!.