What is Thanksgiving, anyway?

What’s Thanksgiving? I mean, if you judge the seasons based on what retailers try to sell us, then you wouldn’t know that November also brings us a significant holiday. The ghouls and goblins come out of hiding in August, followed quickly by the reds and greens of Christmas. What’s Thanksgiving other than the day off before Christmas shopping truly begins? The truth is that Thanksgiving is the last sacred holiday. Try as they might, the retailers can’t quite ruin Thanksgiving. They might sell an inflatable Pilgrim or turkey to go in the yard here or there, but they can’t quite capitalize on the spirit of Thanksgiving – and for that I am very thankful.

Don’t get me wrong; it is important that we remember our other Christian celebrations and that we remember they actually are Christian celebrations. Christmas is not about Santa, reindeer, or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It is the season we remember God’s greatest gift to the human race, the gift of our Savior. Easter really has nothing to do with bunnies, eggs, or egg-laying bunnies. It is all about the greatest news ever told, the death, burial, and glorious resurrection of Jesus.

Thanksgiving is different. The common symbols of Thanksgiving actually supplement the significance of the holiday. The Pilgrim, often the symbol of Thanksgiving, reminds us of the Puritans who initiated the celebration of the day. The Puritans were Christians who sought a better life and a freer expression of their faith when they traveled across the Atlantic and settled in the New World. The turkey – other than going really well with dressing – is a symbol of God’s abundance. There’s nothing commercial about those things.

In a way, I’m glad that Halloween candy is 50% off while Christmas candy is being put on the shelf. I’m glad that we don’t have an abundance of Thanksgiving bombarding us at the store, because, truthfully my thankfulness cannot be dictated by the seasonal aisle at Wal Mart. My thankfulness is a personal expression of gratitude to my Lord for His provision in my life. It is something that my family expresses as we gather around a table and share with one another. It is something that remains sacred even in the midst of a vastly secular world.

There is one retailer who seems to share this sentiment. Maybe it is just marketing, perhaps an attempt to gain more customers, but the upscale retailer Nordstrom has a standing policy that they will not decorate for Christmas until the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is not uncommon to see a sign like this one posted in their stores. They say, “We just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time.”

I like that idea as well. And I think it is a good encouragement to all of us to remember this week to give thanks. James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” If there is anything good in your life, then you have much cause for Thanksgiving.

Giving Thanks,
Pastor Brian

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