It’s a Thanksgiving Sermon, Charlie Brown

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Do you have any holiday traditions? I haven’t been to a family thanksgiving get-together in a while, but I imagine things like watching football with my uncles, if there was no snow – maybe playing horseshoes, and of course my aunt’s delicious pies. Family would gather in different areas of my aunt and uncle’s home and talk and catch-up. When I was really young, my sister and I would play games with our cousins – “Chutes and Ladders” and “Chinese checkers” were some of my favorites. One thing that we would do once we got home that night…if we hadn’t missed watching it on TV was the “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” Special. Originally broadcast in 1973, this family favorite was such a tradition for so many families, TV stations just had to play it on Thanksgiving. Of course now, we have it on blu-ray but back in the day the best you could do was to record it on your VHS tape and watch it back next year…commercials and all.

Jacki, the girls and I watch this on Thanksgiving and the story is a typical Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang cartoon. (You can get a bit of side-shenanigans from Snoopy and Woodstock as well.)

Today I wanted to reflect on the biblical topic of giving thanks and use this film as a frame of reference. If you haven’t watched it yet: spoiler alert! The movie’s been out for 48 years! What have you been waiting for? 

The word “Thanksgiving” begs the question:

Thankful for what?

I’m sure if Charles M. Shultz was still alive, he’d be thankful people still watch and enjoy his creations. What might Charlie Brown be thankful for?

In the film, Charlie and his sister Sally are going over to their grandmother’s for Thanksgiving meal. They’re just kids! They probably don’t need to do anything other than show up. 

Question: Have you ever been invited to something and felt like you needed to do something, bring something…contribute in some way to justify your invitation? 

IF your answer is yes, then I have news for you: you don’t have to do ANYTHING.

Just like Charlie and Sally, guests aren’t required to do anything other than show up and enjoy the meal set before them. Now perhaps Sally and Charlie helped and maybe there was an expectation of everyone pitching in…but all we know for sure was that they were invited to enjoy a meal on Thanksgiving day. And when you receive something, especially one you did nothing to earn or deserve – (like a thanksgiving meal) Hopefully you respond with thankfulness for what was provided.   

“Dear Lord, thank you for providing this food. Amen.”

You may hear something like that on Thursday. You might hear something like that every time you sit down for a meal. Thankfulness is a response for… 

What has been provided.

Let’s look at a biblical example for a moment

Daniel prayed to God a prayer of thanksgiving for what God had given him. What was that?

Wisdom and Power

“I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:

    You have given me wisdom and power,

you have made known to me what we asked of you,

    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:23 NIV

So Daniel recognized his wisdom and power were not from his own hard work and determination. He didn’t play his cards right and the result is wisdom and power. Daniel received them as a gift and his response was thankfulness.

In another example, King David was thankful for God’s…

Wonderful Deeds. Psalm 9:1-6 says: 

1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;

    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

3 My enemies turn back;

    they stumble and perish before you.

4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,

    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;

    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6 Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,

    you have uprooted their cities;

    even the memory of them has perished.

Psalm 9:1-6 NIV

For context, that selection says that it is set to the tune of “The Death of the Son.” I can’t imagine it would be an upbeat, number one pop song of it’s time. Yet in the midst of sorrow and sadness, David can remember all the good God has done for him. Not only remember it, but verbally recount and give thanks to God for it.

Yet another example comes from Psalm 100.

Psalm 100 isn’t attributed to anyone in particular, but it does have a clear purpose. Before verse 1 it says, “A Psalm. For giving thanks.” This is a tune of worship and thanks to God. It’s shared here in this hymnal called “The book of Psalms.”

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2 Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:1-5 ESV

This psalm was for all to use in their times of giving thanks. Let’s zero in on what this psalm is saying we should be thankful for:

  1. God being good.
  2. God being God.
  3. God having made us.
  4. We are His – (people, sheep)
  5. God’s forever-enduring love
  6. His enduring faithfulness

So we are thankful for what was provided. But that then leads to the next question…

Thankful to Whom? 

In an animated film that could be all about going to grandma’s for Thanksgiving, Something quirky occurs. Charlie gets a call from his friend Peppermint Patty. Through his wishy-washiness and her kind of pushiness, Patty has invited herself over for a thanksgiving meal at Charlie Brown’s house! Charlie has to think fast…since he’d rather not try to uninvite Patty and explain the misunderstanding between the two of them. (I mean, hey! The movie’s got to happen, right?)

So he attempts to come up with a plan. With the help of Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock, Charlie Brown begins making a feast and scheduling it earlier in the day so He and Sally can still go to their Grandmother’s. Patty calls back at one point and has invited Marcie and Franklin to join her at Chea’ Brown. Charlie of course needs to make more food and Snoopy set up more chairs around a very special table.

If you were a guest somewhere, the proper manners dictate that you thank your host. For dinners, it’s who’s providing the meal. In life…with so much to be thankful for you and I thank …

  • The one who provided it. Of course in a biblical context, it should be VERY obvious who we are talking about.

It’s hard to read a verse from the bible about thankfulness, giving praise or thanks and the recipient isn’t God. James had his eyes wide open when he wrote the following: 

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

(James 1:17 NIV)

If God is the ultimate provider, then he is the one who receives thanks, praise, exaltation, and worship. Here’s some more examples from scripture of thanking God:

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Cor 1:4 NIV)

“I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”

(Psalm 7:17 NIV)

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.”

(1 Thes 1:2 NIV)

We know who to thank and there is so much to be thankful for, however…

What if my circumstances…stink?

And now we come back to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. Circumstances were rough. Rough for Charlie, with unexpected guests coming for Thanksgiving. For Peppermint Patty who, for the show’s story to happen, her dad left her alone on Thanksgiving. For the friends like Marcie and Franklin who might have been in a similar situation as Patty. No plans with the family. 

We’re not done with “Chuck.” He’s in another rough situation: He doesn’t know how to cook or how to please his guests. What does he do?

He does the BEST a kid can do at his age: Pops some Popcorn, Toasts some bread, Finds the leftover Easter Candy and includes some Jelly Beans and brings in some pretzel sticks for good measure. 

When Charlie Brown’s circumstances stunk, he did what he could.

When our circumstances smell so bad they haven’t taken a shower in years, we do what we can do:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thes 5:16-18 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Phil 4:6-7 NIV)

We bring all these woes, troubles, aches, pains, emotions, loneliness, heart break, inadequacies and lay them at the Lord’s feet. But not just any old way…We just read it. We offer our request to God with thanksgiving. The Manner of giving thanks. The attitude of thankfulness. The belief that the one you are thanking in advance will do what you are thanking him for.

You know who didn’t have a thankful attitude? Peppermint Patty. She invites herself over, she brings two additional guests…and she is displeased (to say the least) with the food that Charlie and the others provided. 

Maybe you’d react the same way. You pull back the cover of the platter for the big juicy turkey and find buttered toast and jelly beans. Where the Green bean casserole is supposed to be, you find those pretzel sticks and popcorn. If you are familiar with Patty’s reaction, She lays into “Chuck” and really complains at him for such a poor choice of food. Charlie Brown leaves the dinner dejected, believing he can never do anything right. Marcie tries to go and smooth things over and Patty and the others apologize for inviting themselves over and Patty for reacting the way she did.

She did not act very thankful. She let her stinky circumstances dictate whether she was going to have a stinky behavior. In the end, forgiveness and restoration occurred when she looked beyond those circumstances.

I think we all have times when our circumstances stink. No one wants to endure the pain of losing a loved one, of a family member being sick. Of a job that’s lost, a home that’s foreclosed on, and a relationship on the rocks. But regardless of our circumstances we can choose how we respond. Will we recognize the good things provided right in front of us? Like brown paper packages tied up with string. We need to thank the one who did the providing. We need to be thankful in all circumstances.

Regardless of our circumstances we can choose how we respond.

Back to the Peanuts Gang. The kids don’t head back outside to the ping-pong table to finish lunch. The phone rings and it’s Charlie Brown’s grandmother. She ends up inviting all of Charlie’s guests. As they ride together in the back of a car, they merrily sing a song. I can only imagine, they sing it with a great deal of thankfulness. Someone thought of and included them. They were heading over the river and through the woods…to Grandma’s house.


Have you felt left out? Maybe you identify with Patty. You might not tell your friends and family, but you’re lonely. You’d like to be invited. 

  • Even in the midst of those circumstances, you can practice the attitude of Thankfulness. 
  • The only other option is something that comes quite naturally to us: stewing and having a pity party.
  • You never know when you circumstances might change, but if you always have an attitude of thankfulness, sudden shifts in your life won’t phase you.

Maybe you connect with Charlie Brown.

  • You’ve done your best and people are still not thankful for what you provide. 
    • Dwelling on that causes resentment and bitterness to grow. 
  • If you are thankful for the one who provides for your every need, you may not get so worked up about how others react to your best attempts to please them. You might remember it is only what God says about you that matters.

How do we thank God in all circumstances? It may be helpful to join those who have gone before us and sing and pray Psalm 100.  (Read this psalm again to yourself or say it out loud.)

1“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2 Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:1-5 ESV

  • We remember to be thankful for what was provided.
  • Give all thanks to the Provider.
  • And not allow our circumstances to control our ability to be thankful.

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