I’ve said for many years that Thanksgiving Day, which the US will celebrate this Thursday, is my favorite holiday. There are just so many things that are right about the day.
For example it’s a celebration of those early thanksgivings our forefathers held because they lived to bring in a new harvest. I mean, life was not something they took for granted. So they wanted to express their gratitude for life and food.
What’s more they invited native Americans to join them, not as guests but as contributors and participants. They recognized the role their new friends played in making it possible for them to have success in their endeavors.
And of course they were thankful to God because they recognized that without Him, they would not have survived the ocean crossing or had the encounters with people who would help them or received the rain and the sunshine they needed to grow their crops.
My first observation about thanksgiving in general is that it is a responsive action. People give thanks because they have first been given something or have benefited from some condition or in some other way have experienced favor or provision. In other words, we don’t start out being thankful. We become thankful as we realize what we have received.
Thanksgiving, then, requires a level of humility. If we think we have earned all we have, if we aren’t acknowledging the fact that we received from another’s hand, we won’t be in a mindset to give thanks.
In that regard, Thanksgiving also requires a measure of reality. We need to see the truth about our circumstances. We need to have clarity of vision so that we realize both what we have received and what we would be like if we hadn’t received.
True thanksgiving, having been properly caused, seems to erupt from within. As someone on another site noted, thanksgiving can’t be mandated. No one can be thankful by order of the President, even if that President was Abraham Lincoln. Rather, thankfulness flows from a heart of love and relief and appreciation, not only for the thing received, but for the person who made provision.
Third, thanksgiving is expressed. Real thanksgiving has legs. It moves from being an emotion to being a demonstration, through words or actions. People giving thanks aren’t silent and they often aren’t still. Thankful people give smiles and hugs; they pack bags and fly hundreds of miles across country; they send cards and presents; they sing songs; they give at church; they get up a half hour early to pray. The cook dinners and bake pies. In short, thanksgiving is not passive.
I can’t help but think of the story Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee who hosted him for a meal.
“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41-42).
Jesus didn’t say, which will be more thankful? He said, which will love him more? Thanksgiving isn’t passive. It turns into love and service and shameless adoration. At least, real thankfulness does—the kind that recognizes the great gifts which have been bestowed and then receives them in humility.
In the end, I guess that explains why we so often take time on Thanksgiving Day, and the weeks leading up to the celebration, to think about the things we’ve been given. An awareness of what we have that we did not earn puts us in a place where we can experience thankfulness and then respond.
One more thing: it’s important to give thanks for the things God has revealed about Himself: He is infinite in love, His mercy extends to the heavens, He is abundantly trustworthy to the point that He will never fail us or forsake us, He is righteous in all His works, His goodness is untainted with even a shadow of wrong doing.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg! So if you had to narrow your thanks down to one thing, and you couldn’t count family, what would that one thing be—physical, spiritual, you name it.
This article is a reprint of one posted on A Christian Worldview Of Fiction some years ago.
You might also be interested in reading other Spec Faith articles, such as this one, about Thanksgiving Day.
Featured Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist from Pexels