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Isaiah 49:5-15

5 And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

Zion’s Children to Be Brought Home

8 Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; 9 saying to the prisoners, “Come out,” to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.” They shall feed along the ways, on all the bare heights shall be their pasture; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. 11 And I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up. 12 Lo, these shall come from far away, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.

13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

These words from the prophet Isaiah offer a word of hope to the people of Israel who are in captivity, far away from their homeland, that God will bring them back. God will not abandon them or forget them. God will comfort God’s people. God will keep the promises made to God’s people.

For this, be thankful!

God reminds them of the promises and offers them hope.

It is reason enough to say thank you!

It was a common question in our home when I was growing up on the days that followed Christmas – “Have you written your thank you notes yet?” Ugh. How I hated writing those notes. I loathed it. I couldn’t think of any punishment worse in all my life (I had it pretty easy as a child, if you didn’t notice).

I remember one Christmas AFTERNOON, one of my brothers was sitting at the dining room table writing his thank you notes. All I could think was, “Dude, you are going to make us look bad. Why are you doing this?”

I tried to convince my parents that since my birthday was coming up in February, maybe I could hold off and do BOTH thank you notes AFTER my birthday at once. They didn’t buy that.

We passed this pain and anguish down to our children, making sure they would write their thank you notes too. I came to realize that the reason we did this was because if the aunties didn’t get their thank you notes, we would hear about it!

I remember one birthday our son was quick to write a thank you note. Every birthday, a family friend would send a card to our kids on their birthday, and inside put several dollars that matched the same number of years old the kids had turned that year. Andrew opened the card from the friend, only to find that he had received only $9 on his tenth birthday. I think his sister probably teased him about this. Without our knowing it, Andrew wrote a thank you note and sealed it before we could read it.

We later found out what his thank you note said,

“Dear Mr and Mrs. Smith. Thank you for the $9 for my birthday. Sincerely, Andrew. P.S. – I am 10!”

The next time we saw the Smiths, they slipped another dollar to Andrew! Well played, Andrew, well played.

That reminded me of a poem by Judith Viorst called “Thank You Note.”

I wanted small pierced earrings (gold). You gave me slippers (gray). My mother said that she would scold Unless I wrote to say How much I liked them. Not much.

As my colleague shared in a sermon before Christmas, God doesn’t want or need anything from us. God is the giver. We receive.

Our thank you note is how we live our lives caring for and loving one another. As Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.”

That is our thank you note to God.

As we come toward the end of 2022, look back and see how God has brought you here today. Can you look back and see the Hand of God in all that has been transpired? Thank you, God. For God promises to be with us today and gives us hope for tomorrow.

…even if we DON’T write that thank you note.

Let us pray: Thank you. May we show our thanks in caring for and carrying one another. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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