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I love Thanksgiving! In fact, I make a special effort each year to make sure my family and I observe Thanksgiving. Commercially, Thanksgiving is often totally ignored. Stores stacked with Halloween costumes and Halloween candy are dramatically redressed overnight on October 31 to unveil Christmas toys and Christmas trees on November 1. Of course, stores do not want to miss out on selling hundreds of turkeys, hams, and side dishes in November, so we do see the occasional signs pointing to “Fall,” “Festival,” and “Harvest” celebrations or feasts.
We can’t say “Thanksgiving,” right? That would imply a higher power. After all, we are expressing thanksgiving for wonderful things such as family, material blessings, etc., and we don’t “thank” each other for those things. We are thanking God for the blessings, graces, and gifts that we enjoy in this life. That’s why my family continues the tradition of enjoying a great meal together on Thanksgiving and why I forbid Christmas music and Christmas movies and Christmas decorations until the day AFTER Thanksgiving! (Even though Summer and Talitha often slip in some early Christmas music - they just can’t help themselves!) Pausing each year to be thankful and to enjoy the Lord together by enjoying His goodness to us is just too important and life-giving!
It is here that I would like to encourage us all to be careful and intentional in our thanks-giving during the Thanksgiving season. One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is making a list of things I am thankful for, and I know many of you do the same. We do have so much to be thankful for, don’t we? It is a humble exercise to actually list as many blessings as you can think of. That’s a good exercise, but I fear it falls far too short of what thanks-giving is actually all about.
Thanks-giving has more to do with the Creator than with His creation. It is meant to point us to God, not to things, people, and stuff. Thanks-giving is about worshipping the Giver by means of acknowledging His gifts, praising Him not them.
If our thanks-giving ends with a list of people, places, things, experiences, and possessions, we are in danger of worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. We are in danger of being idolators. Thanks-giving is not only about being thankful “for what,” but more importantly, being thankful “to Whom”!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a sense of gratitude for your spouse, for your children, for a roof over your head. But if we are simply “thankful” that we have those graces, we misplace our affections. It’s really not about what we have or what we don’t have. It’s about Who gives the rain to the righteous and the unrighteous. Our goods are about the goodness of God! The common graces that we enjoy are about the graciousness of God. The gifts that we enjoy of children, of parents, of food, of health, are means of expressing the greatness of the Giver. If our joy in these things stop in the things, our joy will be very, very small and very, very short. Our joy must stretch beyond these earthly blessings to the Eternal Blesser. That’s the way God intended our thanks-giving, that is, our worship, to be. We get the grace - He gets the glory!
So when you make your thanks-giving list and when you share with others what you are thankful for, remember to be thankful “to Whom” not just “for what”. Instead of saying, “I am thankful for my family,” we can say, “I am so thankful to God for my family.” That puts the gift and the Giver in the proper context and our hearts in the proper direction of worshipping the Whom not the what!
Two truths help us keep this proper perspective and attitude of worship during Thanksgiving. First, whatever is on your list, is given to you by God the Father and secured for you by Christ through His life, death, and resurrection.
James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Second, the greatest blessing on your list, the greatest grace in your life, the best gift you have been given is eternal salvation in Jesus Christ the Lord. (I hope this is true for you, if not, it can be. Read and believe Romans 10:9-10)
2 Corinthians 5:19,21 - in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them . . . For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Have the most joyful Thanksgiving you can possibly have this year. Be thankful to God (to Whom) for all (for what) that He has done for you and given to you through Christ Jesus!