FIRST-PERSON: What happened to Thanksgiving?
This year, almost a month before Halloween, I noticed some of the big "box" stores and shopping malls cranking up their Christmas promotions. It made me ask, "What happened to Thanksgiving?" Although I saw a few Thanksgiving sales, the big push seems to be for Christmas and Santa. We are bombarded with Christmas ads for everything from cars to cruises. In some ways, it appears that a commercialized Christmas "Grinch" is stealing Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving isn't necessarily any more biblical than Christmas, but both have become treasured holidays. While Christmas is celebrated all over the world, Thanksgiving is uniquely American. With religious and historical roots dating back to the early colonists in Plymouth, Mass., this celebration has symbolized and served as a reminder to Americans everywhere of our dependence upon God's grace and mercy.
Almost every U.S. President since George Washington made special declarations regarding a national day for giving thanks to God. Perhaps the most memorable declaration from a United States president was made by Lincoln during the Civil War. In 1863, in the middle of our nation's darkest hour, he declared a National Day of Thanksgiving, for the purpose of giving thanks for the "the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the bill that made the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday. Thanksgiving is certainly a part of our heritage and tradition as Americans, but is it a part of our heart, our soul and our being? Is it possible one of the reasons we allow a consumer-fed, commercialized Christmas to crowd out Thanksgiving, is that we are no longer a grateful nation? Have we forgotten all Christ has done for us?
For the follower of Christ, Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday. It is a day to be grateful for the many blessings we have as people of God, and as a nation. However, our gratitude to God isn't just a one day event. It should drive and define us every day as His people. It is an attitude of our hearts, and it reveals itself in the depth of our spiritual dependence on God. Most importantly, our gratitude to God is the heart of true worship.
On one occasion, Jesus healed 10 lepers. Of the 10, only one returned to give thanks and worship God for what he had experienced. Jesus asked the one who returned, "Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return to give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:12).
What's happening to Thanksgiving where you live? Is it getting pushed aside for the man in the red suit, and the almighty dollar, or is it being observed as a day to count your blessings and give thanks to God who gives so much and blesses us far more than we ever deserve?
Larry Doyle is director of missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association in North Carolina. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).