This week most people in our country will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday that has been with us in some shape or form for almost 400 years.
Some people will note that we don’t have a lot of information about the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, just a brief account from Edward Winslow, the assistant of William Bradford who founded Plymouth Colony: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors…many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest of their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained with a feast.”
They had birds, but we’re not sure about the turkeys. They had a party, but no official holiday. They certainly had no parade. And all of this makes no difference. The point of Thanksgiving should not be lost on us. We’re not primarily celebrating the fact that they had a feast, nor are we celebrating thanksgiving or gratitude itself. We are in fact saying thank you, that is, giving thanks to God for all of His gifts, and the greatest gift, Jesus Christ. Thanksgiving is holiday named after a verb, and that verb has an object.
You can’t say thank you to no one. If there is no one above us, there is no one to thank. If harvest is the random product of time and chance, if our bodies and families and friends and jobs and freedoms and fridges full of food are nothing more than happen-stance pleasant circumstances, then someone might throw a party, but it wouldn’t be called Thanksgiving.
But there is Someone above us, and thanking Him turns out to be another one of His gifts to us. The Bible describes the condition of the human race this way, in Romans 1:20-21: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
We see God revealed in the world He made and sustains. This is His artistry. Rather than refusing to glorify Him and thank Him, we are invited to turn and give thanks, to seek forgiveness for our darkened hearts and the sins we commit, and trust in Jesus who came to put everything right.
Because God is the object of our gratitude, and because we deserve nothing from Him, we can be grateful for everything. This is why you should love Thanksgiving. You get to go be with family who would otherwise drive you crazy, and might still a little anyway, and be thankful for them. You have another reason for gratitude. You see what God has given you in Christ and everything that flows from that, and you get to party because of it and invite people to join in. This holiday was established when enough people knew this. As a culture, we don’t anymore, which is another reason for us to get on it.