If you've been to a mall lately, you know that the retail world quickly jumps from Halloween to Christmas. Thanksgiving is kind of stuffed in a corner with the occasional pumpkin or cornucopia. And of course, grocery stores are filled with turkeys and cans of pumpkin and cranberries and sweet potatoes and more. Focus is on food and football and the frantic need to start Christmas shopping. The history of Thanksgiving is attributed to the Pilgrims and the Indians, and sometimes that story is recalled at this time of year. But I wonder if we really see Thanksgiving the way it was intended, or better yet, the way it could be.
The Pilgrims were grateful to God for helping them survive in a wild new frontier, a world they had never seen before. The emphasis being - they were grateful to God.
So often we "give thanks" to some nebulous source, as though we are speaking words to the wind. But if we are truly thankful - to whom are we giving thanks? To the cold and unknowable universe? To each other for acts of kindness? To ourselves?
If we don't know the source of giving, the Giver of all things good, then why give thanks?
I think we miss the most important thing about this holiday if we fail to realize that thanksgiving is superficial if it only touches on the unknown. Yes, it is good to thank others for the things they do for us. But who do we thank for things that are granted to us that are beyond our control? Who do we thank for the sun that warms the earth? Who gets the gratitude for the rain that waters the plants that gives us food to eat? Who do we thank for the miracles that happen around us every day - of birth, of health, of protection from dangers unseen, of the ability to take another breath?
If there is no knowable God, as some may conclude, or if the gods we worship are abstract ideas with no personal interest in our lives, or if they are like the ancient gods of the cultures of the past who could be both good and evil, then true, awe-inspired, fearless thanksgiving and praise is empty.
The Creator of all things, the God of the Bible, is knowable, personal, and in control of things we are not. He hears the prayers of those who call on Him, and He answers, whether we recognize Him or not. He searches the hearts and minds of men and women to see if any will seek Him. He waits patiently and loves unconditionally. In fact, He went to great lengths to show us that love, though we are often slow to see it.
To thank Him is not difficult once we can see beyond the food and football and frantic plans for the coming Christmas, which is not about sharing or giving, despite how much we might enjoy those things but about Jesus.
Thanksgiving can, if we accept it, help us realize just how much God has done for us when He sent us Jesus--
And that without Him, there is really nothing to be lastingly thankful for.