Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
I suggest that our text from Habakkuk is one means of redeeming the familiar notion of Thanksgiving for our use. Rather than a litany of all God’s goodness to us or of God’s wonderful attributes, we find a rather bleak and depressing picture painted for us. Failure rather than success seems to be the order of the day, and yet in the midst of that failure, in the midst of that privation, is that cry of hope and confidence. Thanksgiving begins not with our success…not even with ourselves; it begins with God.
One way toward redeeming the familiar in our own too familiar American story of Thanksgiving is to realize that we do not give thanks for the Pilgrims. Rather, we give thanks for that God whom they adored, that God to whom the slaves of Africa rendered praise, that God who caused Habakkuk and Job to rejoice in their misery, that God of all ages past and all ages yet to be. Thanksgiving, then, begins with God.
We are thankful not only for God’s constancy and for our place in his plan, but, if we are truly to be a part of the process of redeeming the familiar, we are most thankful that with God we are given a second chance. When we miss our opportunities, when we fail in the few noble efforts that we make, we know that we are the children of a God who is loving an forgiving, who hates the sin but loves the sinner. We are thankful that we are children of the “second chance.” It is God’s forgiveness of our humanity and our forgiveness of our fellow humans that makes this process work…It seems to me that forgiveness between God and man and between man and man is the true context for Thanksgiving. In his supreme act of forgiveness God sent us his Christ in the place of our Adam, and that Christ asked forgiveness for the very ones who put him to death.
[In the coming seasons of Advent and Christmas] we look forward to the coming again of our second chance… We are not washed up, the book is not closed, the last word has not been spoken or written, and we have cause for thanksgiving that we are privileged to live…‘for the time being.’
Sermons: Biblical Wisdom For Daily Living by Rev. Peter J. Gomes, pgs.233-234.