Many people say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Certainly, it's a very important holiday--a national holiday for thankfulness is one of the best ideas our country ever had. But I don't think that's why it's most people's favorite holiday. Usually the reasons I hear from those who love Thanksgiving is that it's a great day to get together with family and friends, eat delicious food, and watch parades and football without the pressures of having to purchase gifts.
For Americans, Thanksgiving is rooted in historical and cultural significance. For people my age (Gen X) and older Thanksgiving images conjured up Pilgrims and Indians having a meal and working together in cooperation. Thanksgiving had religious and cultural connations--it was a table to be thankful TO God FOR each other and the gifts He had provided. It was a celebration of the desire for a better life and religious freedom that founded this nation. It was a shared national memory as well as a feast.
Today, in our politically-correct, hyper-sensitive world we no longer talk about the Pilgrims and the Indians and we no longer talk about thanking God. The modern cultural interpretation of Thanksgiving is that it is a day to be thankful TO each other--a time of year when businesses thank their clients for their patronage, friends celebrate and families who haven't seen each other for years and don't like each other much endure each other's company for a few hours.
As our society continues to deny God and celebrate what is broken and dysfunctional in life rather than what is good, Thanksgiving becomes less important and less wonderful. But the holiday is hugely significant because it reminds us that it was God's hand "that preserved and has made us a nation" and that we owe Him our gratitude both for our country and for everything else good in our lives. It reminds us that the original settlers in this great land were not sitting at the first Thanksgiving glued to an IPhone waiting for the football game to start. They had suffered and sacrificed to cross an ocean and reach a place where they could worship God in their own way and raise their children to have their own values, culture and customs.
It also reminds us that without God's provision--including the assistance of the indigenous people--the Pilgrims would not have survived in this new land. God had provided what they needed to forge the beginnings of what was going to be the greatest nation on earth. But it was not an easy beginning. Illness, permanent separation from loved ones across the ocean, loss of loved ones here in the new world, deprivation and intensely hard work were all part of this new life in this new land. Yet the Pilgrims were grateful--rather than bitterly complaining about what they had suffered and lost in their voyage over and in their first year in the New World they saw the goodness of God and they were thankful for that.
This Thanksgiving, take time out from all the busyness to think about those early settlers and about that first meal. And think about the many incredible blessings that God has bestowed on our nation since it's founding. Our freedom, our prosperity, our very nation is God's gift to us. Truly, how we use those blessings is our gift to Him. And a great place to start is by remembering that it is truly, and only, from Him that everything that is good comes.
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