Hearing the same Thanksgiving Sermon every year can get old quickly. The trick is to find new ways to share the spirit of Thanksgiving using the same bible verses. God’s word must be followed, and sermons will, of course, include these verses. Pastors are finding unique ways to share these messages, to reach and change more lives.
Creativity is essential, but there is no shame in borrowing from others to share new ideas with your congregation. The following are traditional sermon ideas that we have provided in a fresh perspective to help your church.
It is easy to be thankful when life is good. We get a new job, fall in love, or fall into some unexpected good luck. It is more challenging to give thanks when things are difficult. Incorporating prayer every day and making it a habit invites thankfulness into your life.
During your Thanksgiving service, you can share this message in a few different ways. If you are the minister of a smaller congregation, ask members of your community to share what worries they have today. Thank them for their openness and honesty, and pray as a group for them as a congregation. Encourage each member to thank God for his gifts.
Your sermon may include the following suggestions –
For larger churches, a prayer service may not be feasible. Instead, give your parishioners ways to incorporate prayer into their lives.
Today’s prayers often start with what we want or need from God. We rarely thank him for the gifts he has given. Instead of leaving our thanks until last or not at all, start all your prayers with gratitude for the Lord’s gifts.
Do not let not knowing what to say keep you from incorporating prayer into your life. Speak with God like you would a friend. Invite him to your home and share your daily worries and questions.
You do not have to wait until dinner or bedtime to say your daily prayers. Talk to God while you are waiting in line to pick up your child from school. Pray to God instead of spewing anger at unsafe drivers on the road. Live a prayerful life by including it whenever you can.
Talking to God like a friend means being honest about your feelings. He already knows what is in our hearts, but telling him honestly how we feel will help you focus your emotions and address issues we are having trouble dealing with ourselves. It is also a way to strengthen our relationship with God.
The next time you worry, ask God to take that worry. We are not alone anymore. Once we invite God into our lives, we no longer must struggle with worries ourselves.
The book of Colossians is a letter written by Paul and Timothy to the members of the Church in Colossae. Paul worried for the church’s future and by reports he had heard that they were including pagan practices in their service.
Paul reiterates to the Colossians that Jesus Christ is enough and his followers must go with him. He reminded them that some would give in to outside temptations and some will simply go through the routine of being a Christian, but true believers will:
Every word spoken by Jesus is from God. We must follow him and turn aside from any other christ.
Be deliberate in your actions. Follow the path God laid before you.
As a Christian, you must base your faith upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not just showing up on Sundays, declaring yourself a Christian to the public. You must follow his teachings and live life as he asked us to.
Let God’s strength strengthen you. Learn to trust him even when we do not see where it will lead.
Continue to follow his teachings and the truth you know. Outside pressures and excitement want to distract you. Follow his teachings, and you will know God.
Be joyous. Be thankful Jesus is in our hearts and lives.
Pastoral leadership can share Paul and Timothy’s letter to the Colossians this Thanksgiving. Invite the congregation to examine how his warnings can be taken today. Where are Christians following false teachings and allowing non-Christian practices into their services? How are Christians today talking the talk but not walking the walk?
Church services do not always have to be solemn and stern. A humorous take on the traditional Thanksgiving Sermon can liven things up and get your parishioners thinking. Instead of sharing ways to be grateful this Thanksgiving, sarcastically invite them to go the other way. Here are a few suggestions to offer:
Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory kept a list of those who have wronged him. He vowed to make them pay when he won his Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, his wife and friends distracted him from his goal, and his over 90-minute diatribe of who wronged him gave a meaningful tribute to his friends and family.
In this world of social media, it is easy to stay distracted and jealous of others. Encourage your congregation to remain online as much as possible and stew in regret whenever they see others achieve more.
Why bother glorifying God? He already knows what he did and is quite aware of his power and grace. Instead, use prayer as more of a wish to a genie. Keep your prayers straightforward and to the point. List what you want and why you deserve it. Add a few threats in there, too, to let God know you won’t trust or follow him if you do not get what you want.
Hopefully, your parishioners will get the joke and call themselves on their actions when they fall into these selfish practices.
The story of Job can be uncomfortable for some to consume. His tale is one of loss, faith, and thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving season, pastors can tell the story of Job and share how one man went from a blessed life to one full of trauma. In the end, Job kept his faith and regained God’s blessings. His faith and thankfulness during the worst of times showed his true faith.
What was Job’s life like before he was tested? Why did God choose him to test? Job lived a rich man’s life in the land of Uz. He feared God and people respected him. He followed all God’s laws and was careful to remain blameless. This sermon can touch on how living a good life and following all the rules will not ensure a perfect life.
Job had seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yokes of oxen, and five hundred donkeys. Job also had servants and people highly respected him. His life was clearly blessed, but in one day, Job hears that his livestock, servants, and all of his children died. When Job heard this, he tore his clothes and shaved his head in mourning, but even then, Job remained faithful to God.
God allows Satan to test Job again. Next, Job is struck ill with sores. Even his wife tells Job to curse (or bless – there is some disagreement here) God. Job refuses and remains true to God.
When three friends come to visit, they offer advice on why this must have happened. Job must not be so blameless. His children must have done wrong to deserve their deaths. Job is angry and calls them “worthless physicians.” Job begins to question God. He curses his life and wishes he was never born. Then he shows anger that God lets wicked people prosper while the good suffer. Also, he wishes he could speak with God and ask why he has been cursed.
God thunders from above and demands that Job be brave and respond to his questions. After doubting it is him, Job concedes his own sin and acknowledges God’s power and knowledge. God is pleased but is angry at Job’s friends for philosophizing and speaking out of turn. Their advice is unsound and not based on theology. Job asks God for their forgiveness, and God agrees.
Job is made healthy again and given twice as much property as before. He is also blessed with new children and long life.
At this point, we would assume Job would praise God and be thankful, but Job’s praise and thankfulness come long before God rewards him for his faith. After losing everything Job shaved his head and fell to the ground in worship. During the worst of times, Job continued to praise God and honor him for his life.
As a pastor, you can use Job’s story to encourage faithfulness and thankfulness during times of strife and pain. We must praise God for the gifts he gives and the trails he puts us through. His knowledge is vast and he is testing us to help us learn and grow. During our current pandemic, the story of Job may be exactly what your parishioners need to hear.
“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; Her forgets not His own.”
The song does not take place during Thanksgiving. The hymn was written at the end of the 16th century. It was to celebrate the freedom of The Netherlands from Spain. It became a Thanksgiving hymn after Theodore Baker translated it from German to a hymn called “Prayer for Thanksgiving” in 1894.
During the 16th century, the Dutch were under Spain. During the Reformation, Protestants in the Netherlands struggled against Spain and the Catholic Church to worship without fear of persecution. Their homes were destroyed, and thousands of Protestants were massacred by the Spanish in 1576 during the siege of Antwerp.
In 1609 a truce between the Dutch and Spain was formed, and Prince Frederick Henry grew into a strong politician and soldier. When Spain tried to renew its power over the Netherlands, Prince Frederick Henry was able to defeat them, and Protestants were free to worship.
A way to shake up your Thanksgiving sermon can be to include music in exciting ways. While you share your sermon on the song’s history and how your parishioners can honor God and give thanks, find ways to intersperse music with your sermon. Let the music flow through the church and the congregation.
Start with the tune, then have a single individual sing the first verse. As you share your sermon and the history of what the Dutch had to go through, add more voices to the choir and have them repeat the song. End with a strong ensemble and instrumental music. Put the words up on a screen and ask the entire congregation to join together to praise God through song.
Thanksgiving started with the Pilgrims who came to America to worship God freely. After suffering through drought and facing death and illness, the surviving members of the community joined together to worship God and thank him for their blessings.
Thanksgiving was made official in 1864 when President Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November Thanksgiving Day. This declaration came during the height of the Civil War. Sherman was marching through Georgia at the time, and the deaths were piling up on both sides. Lincoln was re-elected, and hope was high in the North that the end was near.
The holiday became less about religion and more about the economy, sports, and travel as time went on. In the craziness of the modern world, it is easy to lose sight of what Thanksgiving really means.
During our current pandemic, we have faced a life different than any of us have known. We have lost jobs, family, friends, and chances to socialize with people in the ways we have become accustomed to. As Christians, we must retain our faith in God and spread joy and thankfulness for what we have.
A common statement heard in Alcoholic Anonymous meetings is “Gratitude is an Action Word.” As God has touched you and spread gratitude through your heart, you should return that favor and spread gratitude through action and the word of God.
Give it away to keep it. Find ways to spread your gifts, help others find homes, jobs, and faith in God.
Pastors can share the story of a drunk or drug addict they have worked within the past. Speak about how their lives can transform through a relationship with God. Tell how this man or woman shared their blessings with others and impacted many after him. Share that this message is not only for alcoholics and drug users. We can all learn from the messages of this group.
Thanksgiving sermons can be as inspirational as the season that follows. Instead of dragging out the old standby while preparing for Christmas, make this year’s Thanksgiving a festival of gratitude. Include music, personal stories, and prayer throughout your sermon. Find ways to involve the entire congregation and inspire your parishioners to show their thankfulness through actions and spread God’s word.
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