Summary: The real meaning of Thanksgiving
"To All Ye Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings."
William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony.
Turkey, Ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, creamed corn, gravy, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, apple pie, pumpkin pie.
Is this what we are thankful for? Do we set aside one day per year so that we can be thankful for a certain kind of dinner? Of course not, this is our festival of giving thanks or thanksgiving.
17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving Day has been a tradition in this country for several hundred years. The first Thanksgiving Day was in 1621 with the pilgrims and the Native Americans. Thanksgiving didn’t become an annual holiday until the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day in order to increase morale among the soldiers fighting. And so for the last 115 years or so we have celebrated this day of Thanksgiving.
This holiday is fairly different than others on our calendar. It doesn’t commemorate any major event. It doesn’t celebrate a national victory, and its not someone’s birthday. It is simply a day that has been set-aside for us to remember and give thanks.
Thanksgiving in the church has been a tradition since the time of Moses. God set in the law, the Feast of Weeks which was the Hebrew harvest festival when everyone gathered and gave thanks to God for the bountiful harvest that he had given them.
Today the modern church has blended the two. We have taken the national day of Thanksgiving and the meaning of the Feast of Weeks and we have merged them.
So today we have a day set-aside for us to give thanks to God for all that he has done for us and given us.
So what is it that we are thankful for?
First, it is impossible to give thanks for things done unless we first admit that we didn’t do them. For who would we thank if it were us who provided? We must first admit that God made the provisions for all things and then we can be thankful to Him who provides for us.
I think in current American culture it may be harder to give thanks. After all many people go to work, do their jobs and are paid by their boss every week. I think that in the process of our work it is easy loose sight of who is really providing, because it looks like we are the one bringing home the bacon.
I think that it may be easier for some people to give thanks than others like farmers, and parents. Farmers plant, and fertilize, and spray w/ pesticides, basically they assist the crops. Parents do their best trying to raise their children, they teach them, and protect them, they assist them in their growing.
But in the end--both the farmer, and the parent—understand that there was another force at work that they had no control over.
Ray Stedman tells of an experience H.A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited his to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don’t." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat."