Tomorrow we will celebrate a holiday that has been slowly, steadily shrinking in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. That day, of course, is called Thanksgiving. Sadly, our culture has, to a large extent, lost sight of what it means to be thankful, simply because we have lost sight of the One to whom we are to be thankful.
Lost in the middle of Halloween and Christmas, the two most commercialized consumer-oriented holidays in America, we find Thanksgiving. Americans have turned Thanksgiving into a day of planning and preparation for the first official day of Christmas shopping, “Black Friday,” which now begins on Thursday, crowding out even more of the little we have left of the day designed to give gratitude to our God for His many blessings.
How did we get here?
It was the autumn 1621, nearly a year since the Pilgrims landed on the shores of America. The original population of Pilgrims had been reduced by more than half due to sickness and starvation. In an act of thanksgiving to God for His gracious provision of the colony’s first successful harvest, the Pilgrims organized the first Thanksgiving Day feast, along with the Wampanoag Indians, the Pilgrims’ newfound friends.
One of the Pilgrims, Edward Winslow, sent a letter to a friend back in England that contained these words:
God be praised, we had a good increase . . . Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling that so we might after a special manner rejoice together . . . These things I thought good to let you understand . . . that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us.
You and I today have so much to be thankful for because our God has dealt so favorably toward us . . . but it is easy to lose sight of Thanksgiving, that day silently sandwiched between “spooky sights” and “silent nights” along the way to our New Year’s celebrations.
But this is not for you! I encourage you to prayerfully consider, as you advance through this Thanksgiving week, all that you have to be thankful for.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Think about it this way: as Paul asked the Christians at Corinth, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). The answer to Paul’s rhetorical question, of course, is nothing, “For from [God] and to him and through him are all things” (Romans 11:36). And the more you have been given, the more you are in debt to the One who has given it to you.
Why not take a moment to write out your “Blessing List,” identifying some of the many blessings God has given you throughout this past year? We have been doing this as a family since our first child, Brock, was born in 1996—each member of the family writing out their own list and sharing it with each other. The lists from previous years provide a rich reminder of the many good gifts and answered prayers our God has granted to us over the years; without those lists, we might well have forgotten many of them.
On Wednesday, we will take a look at one of the great “gratitude” stories in all of sacred Scripture. Until then, remember: God blesses us so that we would bless others. May that be the confession of our lives!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!