Thanksgiving – as a holiday – has devolved in our jaded and cynical society, and that is sad. Like most, I was raised with an understanding that Thanksgiving represented the coming together of two cultures. I don’t indicate those two cultures here because, whatever label I use in naming them, I surely will offend a sector of people.
Like most, I observe how Thanksgiving has come to represent over commercialization. It has come to represent greed, selfishness, ego and a host of other unrighteous character traits. Cyber Monday and Black Friday are two of those event-driven commercialization typically signaling the start of a “holiday” season I will withhold naming (for now) because *gasp* someone may be offended at my calling it what it is!
And finally, like most, Thanksgiving has also been formed by my childhood experiences and the events of my life during those times. When I was young, my mother took her first residence in a mental health facility on Thanksgiving day. Every year thereafter, she greeted Thanksgiving’s arrival with remorse.
Years later, in a silly act of adolescence, I found myself in an emergency room to receive stitches in my eyebrow on Thanksgiving day. Obviously, it left the commemoration of Thanksgiving with a residue of sadness and tragedy.
However, despite all this, I choose to celebrate Thanksgiving completely counter to all the above. Here’s why.
Thanksgiving is the Joining of Cultures
The simplest telling of Thanksgiving says it came about when two cultures came together to share in the bountiful harvest. I went to grade school at a time when we were allowed to label the cultures as pilgrims and Indians. We even dressed in costumes and celebrated a meal together. In peace and without offense. This taught me to believe multiple cultures can coexist in peaceful communal spirit. Today, we are witnessing either a rewriting or righting of historical perspectives. Probably a bit of both, truthfully speaking
However, the sentiment and purpose should persist. it begins with God. A God who is the alpha. A God who is the God of a great multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4, Revelation 7:9–10). He brings together all peoples and calls us his beloved. Lets treat one another as such.
Thanksgiving Signals Advent and Christmas
Thanksgiving is a launch point to both commemorating and awaiting the most important moment in human history; the coming of Jesus Christ. Yes, our hearts filled with humble gratitude and bellies stuffed with food, we now begin the season of Advent. The time of reflecting on the arrival of our savior onto Earth in the town of Bethlehem. And it gives us the awareness to prepare ourselves for the day in which we welcome his return.
With Thanksgiving in the recent rear view, let us look to this exciting next season. It is a time for “looking back, thinking how it must have been, waiting for the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, it is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming.” (Noel Piper; Desiring God)
Thanksgiving is Living in Gratitude
So how do we go about that time of preparation as we await that glorious day of the Lord? It begins with gratitude for his work in our lives, and continues in how we reflect his glory in the way we live. Living with God in the form of the Holy Spirit, and responding to his revealed will in our lives.
Thanksgiving is about God the father who unites his peoples. It is about the Gospel of Jesus and his eventual return. And it’s an occasion to walk in stride with the Holy Spirit, being light in a rapidly darkening world.
This is how I choose to observe Thanksgiving. I invite you to do the same. To God be all glory.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
– Psalm 100:4 (NLT)