The True Meaning of Thanksgiving


In a few days we will celebrate the holiday that kicks off the Christmas season.  Over the years Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays.  It’s a day to relax and eat good food (I can’t wait for that pumpkin pie!), play games, and watch football, all with family and friends.  But I have also realized in recent years that Thanksgiving is a somewhat forgotten holiday.  It seems to me that its true meaning gets passed over and neglected.  Sometimes it feels like Thanksgiving is that one last stepping stone into the Christmas Season, and so we rush through it.

We talk often about the true meaning of Christmas and implore others not to forget, but nobody seems to be all that worried about the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  We talk about the pilgrims and their journey on the Mayflower, but do we really understand what they were celebrating on that First Thanksgiving?  They had come to the New World a year earlier with hopes of freedom to worship God as they chose and plenty of land to claim as their own.  But they didn’t anticipate the hardships they would have to endure.  They left Europe with 102 passengers, by the end of their first winter in Plymouth there were only 52 left; the others had died of diseases, starvation, and exposure.  If the local native people hadn’t seen their troubles and helped them they never would have survived an entire year.

So, on the First Thanksgiving they were celebrating BEING ALIVE.  They were grateful for the food they had been able to harvest and the shelters they were able to build.  They were thankful to be able to worship God freely.  They were not thinking about standing in line for hours to get a good deal on a TV the next day.  It seems funny to me that the biggest shopping day of the year occurs on the day after we are supposed to be thankful for what we already have.

We are commanded in the Bible many times to GIVE THANKS.  God wants us to be thankful and appreciate what we have been given.  Not just material things, but our lives, families, health, and most of all the salvation we receive from Jesus’ work on the cross.  I have found in my own life that when I make an effort to be thankful my attitude changes, I feel more content with what I have and it makes me want to share what I have been so graciously given.

And so I would like to challenge you this year to take a few minutes to reflect on what you have been given and truly thank God for it before the craziness of this Christmas season takes over.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His lovingkindness is everlasting

And His faithfulness to all generations.”  -Psalm 100: 4-5

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”   -Colossians 3: 15-17

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