A day of national thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the 4th Thursday in November. The date isn’t as traditional as the principle is, nor is it more important.
A day of thanksgiving – rather several days – has its origins in what would later become the southern United States when the Berkeley Hundred established a colony in Virginia in 1619. Their charter expressly stated,
- "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."
["THE FIRST THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION — JUNE 20, 1676". The Covenant News. Retrieved 2010-11-20.]
Most baby boomers and older remember learning about the “first” Thanksgiving at the Plymouth Colony in 1621 with William Bradford, Squanto, Massasoit and others. This celebration was held to give thanks to God for the blessings of a bountiful harvest, the crucial help from the native Americans, and God’s mercy that saw them through a harsh winter.
At my house an integral part of the Thanksgiving celebration has been the worship of God. We have either attended a local church or I have led worship and preached as the pastor of a church.
We give thanks to God by hearing His word, singing His praise, receiving His sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus Christ (the Eucharist – from the Greek word for thanksgiving), and sharing of our abundance with others. We do this through our giving in the offering and adding canned and boxed foods to the food offering.
This is something that America needs to recapture about Thanksgiving. Worshiping God and giving thanks by helping others. Thanksgiving has to be more than just receiving – turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie. Think about the word, thanksgiving. It is a compound word that means giving thanks.
God has given us so much – our homes, our daily bread, our families, our salvation through Jesus Christ. But the nature of these gifts is in the giving – first His giving them to us and then us giving to others. We are blessed when we respond to God’s love by giving to others out of what God has given to us.
It isn’t hard to find commentary and opinion about what is wrong with America. The level of civility is probably the most blatant example of a lack of thanksgiving in America. If we could stop looking inward and start to hold out hands of thanksgiving to help and build up, our country would be able to turn the corner from a very bad place it finds itself in right now.
Now is the perfect time to do that. Families will be gathering this week. Extend a hand of love and appreciation to them. And then take that feeling home as the Advent/Christmas season begins. Don’t focus on the negative, instead be the positive force of thanksgiving and change that our country needs. You can do it because God has already done it for you through Jesus Christ!