There are a host of Scriptures that enjoin us to give thanks to God. In the midst of prayer, when we are often inclined to ask God for things, we should always be mindful of what He has already accomplished for us, what He is doing on our behalf, and what He has promised in the future lest we seem ungrateful. In the midst of an ungrateful culture possessed with a sense of entitlement, bound by materialism, and blinded by hedonism, the Christian should be distinguished by an “attitude of gratitude.” For the Christian, thanksgiving should not be celebrated just one day out of the year; our daily lives should be characterized by “thanksliving.”
It is of interest to note that the word “holiday” is derived etymologically from the term “Holy Day.” The annual feasts celebrated by Judaism were memorials recognizing the intervention of God in significant events throughout its history making them “Holy Days.”
As a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we use the term “holiday” to describe events in our nation’s history. Of the ten legally recognized federal holidays in the United States, eight are considered secular and only two have clear religious history, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The eight secular holidays memorialize important events in our nation’s history. They have served to shape our national identity, and since history is “His story” they play an important role in reminding our nation of the sovereign hand of God in shaping our national destiny and role in the history of mankind. So in a sense they are “holidays.”
But Christmas and Thanksgiving are ostensibly religious holidays. Christmas is observed by many countries around the world, but Thanksgiving, as observed here in the U.S., is distinctively American. It memorializes a time of feasting and celebration inaugurated by the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony who had survived their first year in the New World amid harsh conditions and hostile weather. It was a time when thanks were given to God for a bountiful harvest that ensured their continued survival. Thanksgiving in America has religious roots.
Today Thanksgiving means many things to many people. For most it will be a day away from work, and a time spent with family and friends. Even the poorest among us will dine on a feast and eat enough to feed a third world family for a week. Then there is the entertainment. There will be parades to watch, and football games galore for our viewing pleasure. The Friday after Thanksgiving will kick off the Christmas holiday shopping season, and that will be something retailers are thankful for.
It is the blessings of God and the affluence they impart, which also bring the very distractions that may cause us to forget the Author of those blessings. The very things we enjoy this time of the year could also become the very things that draw our attention away from recognizing and thanking the God who provides them. This is the reason some observers have said the holiday has become increasingly secular. Traditionally it was a time to be thankful to God for a bountiful harvest, but it appears to many to have moved away from its religious roots.
As our society over the years has gravitated to urban areas; we have increasingly been isolated from the rural way of life. Most do not grow their own vegetables, raise livestock, or engage in any kind of activities that would be associated with farm life. For most people turkey hunting means picking out the best Butterball turkey left in the meat department at their grocery store. There is a disconnect between our daily lives and the way of life that provides us with the necessary nourishment needed to sustain life.
Here’s a news flash. We are just as dependent today on twelve inches of fertile topsoil, and the right amount of rain at the right time as our Pilgrim forefathers were. We may be able to fertilize the soil, and irrigate our crops today in ways that were unthinkable then, but it does not take much thought to realize there are a host of climatic circumstances and crop conditions that must happen in concert to produce the bounty we still depend on. And many of those circumstances and conditions are beyond our control.
This is not a time to be arrogant or ungrateful, it is a time to give thanks to a benevolent God from whom all blessings flow. Enjoy Thanksgiving, but take time to thank the One who makes it all possible.