Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days (seasons) of the year. It’s not the turkey and cranberry sauce, it’s the opportunity to gather as family and focus on being thankful to the Lord for all that we’ve been given.
All of us face challenges–financial challenges, health challenges, relationship challenges, you name it. And those challenges can get overwhelming unless we take a step back and reflect on the goodness of God. God has indeed given us a wonderful world and we have so much to be thankful for. God has showered us with His gifts, beginning with the gift of life itself. And Thanksgiving Day is the right time to be consciously aware of our blessings.
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the US and it is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November. Thanksgiving finds its roots in religious and cultural traditions even though it is now a government-sanctioned national holiday. Many other countries also designate a specific day of the year as their day of thanks. Almost all religions of the world have ceremonies of thanks to God and many are focused on the harvest season.
The Thanksgiving holiday in the United States is traditionally thought to have originated at a 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is not easy to trace Thanksgiving to this specific event and there is not a universal agreement on this date as its origin. I choose to believe that the origin of giving thanks to God comes from deep within the human heart and it is a natural response to a loving and gracious God.
In the United States, we live in the time when some people would like to remove every connection between God and country. I find it reassuring to look back and see that our early American leaders clearly saw God as the source of our bounty. On November 26, 1789, for our first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration, George Washington spoke of that day as: “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.” Sadly, in Washington DC, Thanksgiving Day seems to be more about the “pardoning of a turkey” than thanking God.
Today, as on all days, some people are suffering from illnesses, pains of all types and grief due to the death of loved ones and friends. These are part and parcel of the human condition. However, I am sure you will agree that if we can just take a moment this day to wipe away any tears that we might have, we can see through our pain that there is still so much goodness remaining. Psalm 30:12-13 speak to this: “You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. So that my glory may praise you and not be silent. O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”
We read more about thanks in Psalm 9:2-3: “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will delight and rejoice in you; I will sing hymns to your name, Most High.”
During this time of Thanksgiving it is easy for us to spend a day being grateful and fulfilled, but how grateful are we the other 364 days of the year for everything God has given us?
One of the ways to become more aware of your blessings is to use a “Gratitude Journal.” By taking time each week to write down the things for which you are grateful, you can focus on those things that often escape notice but are so important. Being consciously grateful helps you discover what you take for granted–job, freedom, birds, the very air you breathe. The list of things we each take for granted can go on and on. Yet each of these things, no matter how important or mundane, is a gift from God for which we need to be thankful.
Another way to bring gratitude into your everyday life is to have each person at the dinner table announce three things that happened that day for which they are grateful. In a family with young children this can range from the amusing (“I am grateful I didn’t have to sit next to any girls on the bus”) To the profound (“I am grateful I got to see Grandma today–she is getting old.”) But whether or not there are children in the family, the gratefulness discussion at meals can provide fodder for discussions and keep gratitude at the forefront.
At bedtime each of us can spend a few moments in silence to reflect on our day and say a prayer of thanksgiving about the things, we experienced during our waking hours. We are showered with blessings from God each and every minute of the day and night and it is right to acknowledge those blessings and thank Him.
So this year, instead of November 24th being one day of Thanksgiving, have it be the first day of a year of thanksgiving.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
To all who listen to us on the radio, read our blogs and experience the compass Bible studies, we offer our heartfelt thanks! I wish each and every one of you a happy and blessed day as we offer thanks together to our God. Happy Thanksgiving!