In many ways, our culture seems to have lost or is losing the common practice of extending public courtesies and thankfulness to others. Common courtesy is just sooooo old-fashioned. True thankfulness appears to have been replaced with a belief that we are owed whatever it is that we desire. This practice is put on exhibition way too often these days. One glaring example – though there are many – is the now-common practice of mobs of people storming stores and taking whatever they can get their hands on with no fear of consequences. Incredibly enough, when chain stores close the locations where this is happening regularly, a few people have publicly said the chains have no right to close them because the area deserves to have these stores nearby. Though we may not all voice it, it is quite common for people to feel they are deserving of whatever they may desire. The concept that the world – however we define it – owes us something because we deserve it brings with it an attitude of “What have you done for me lately?” It is difficult for someone of that mindset to be thankful for much of anything.
With the chaos and pandemonium, locally and internationally, that seems to surround us these days, it is sometimes difficult for us to have an attitude of thankfulness, though most of us have much to be thankful for. The angry political, religious, and cultural divisions we have in our nation do not help the situation. We are divided between supporting Hamas and supporting Israel, for one recent example. We once saw ourselves as a “melting pot,” where we became ONE despite our disparate backgrounds; we now seem determined to melt the pot! Angry people of all stripes do not tend to be all that thankful, and we are all guilty of forgetting the blessings we have been given.
Perhaps the lack of thankfulness isn’t so much about what is going on around us but the by-product of selfishness within us. The world has always had problems – very severe problems. Maybe our thanklessness is a result of where our minds are focused. As individuals and, by extension, communities and the nation, our thankfulness meter needs to be recalibrated from ourselves and our surroundings to the One to Whom we owe a huge depth of thankfulness. The Jewish tradition of celebrating Passover was and is a reminder of where Israel as a people came from and what dangers they have been brought through. Passover points directly to the God to whom they are to be thankful. It is a sort of play, and everyone present at the festivities has a role. It is “The Story of all Stories”:
One of the core messages of the Passover seder is “v’higad’ta l’vin’chah” – “you shall teach your children the central narrative of our people, that we were slaves in Egypt and now we are free.”1The Fifteen Elements of Passover – Maggid, by Gail Landgraf, The In Season Life Style blog
Dayenu has 15 stanzas representing the 15 gifts God bestowed. The first five involve freeing the Jews from slavery, the next describe[s] the miracles He did for them, and the last five for the closeness to God He gave them. Each of the stanzas is followed by the word “Dayenu” (it would have been enough) sung repeatedly.
The song is simple and reminds those who engage in this tradition to be thankful, grateful to God for all He has done for us. God owes us nothing; therefore, anything He does for us…is a gift. “If He had brought us out of Egypt, it would have been enough.” But God did not stop there. “If He had executed justice upon the Egyptians, it would have been enough.” If He had …”
Even as we write this and personally reflect on Dayenu, we find good reason to be incredibly thankful for all of God’s blessings throughout our lives, including during this present time. Granted, not everyone has been blessed in the same ways, but most of us can find plentiful blessings to remind us of God’s goodness towards us. Perhaps the core Thanksgiving message to teach our children is we were slaves in bondage to sin and are now redeemed and have peace with God. That would have been enough. But… there is more!
If He only had allowed us to be born into a free country, it would have been enough. If He only had given us loving parents, it would have been enough. If He only had given us a compatible partner with whom to share life, it would have been enough. If He only had given us lifelong friends who love us despite truly knowing us, it would have been enough. If He only had given us beautiful children to raise and love, it would have been enough. If He only had given us grandchildren to spoil to our heart’s content, it would have been enough. If we only had been given good food and good times to share with loved ones, it would have been enough. But oh, He has given us so much more!
He gave us a Judeo-Christian heritage in this nation, enabling us to anchor our faith with the faith of our fathers. He gave us the gift of His Son, and to those who receive it, there are the gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. He gave us a relationship with Himself so we can daily commune and share our burdens with Him. He gave us expectations for the wonderful future that awaits us. Though we may sometimes feel the world is against us, God is with us and has promised not to leave us. The Apostle Paul states it more eloquently than we are able to:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
The deeper one ponders, the longer the list grows. We have brothers, sisters, pastors, and friends, and we have plentiful reasons to love and laugh. All these and more come from the hand of the One Who created and sustains the entire universe. He owes us nothing but gives us so much. On this day of Thanksgiving, we say “Dayenu.” If all He gave us was all He has given us up to this moment, it would be way more than enough!Ω
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