My late mother had a tradition on Thanksgiving Day of greeting us with a hearty “Happy Bird Day!” Unlike Joy, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My father was an atheist and my mother was a religious eclectic who bought into a variety of New Age beliefs before they were recognized as such. For us, Thanksgiving was a day off school, and except for my mother, it was a day off work. Even though she was off work at her job as a waitress, she spent the day cooking and preparing a wonderful meal. What were we thankful for? I don’t know – perhaps the turkey – nothing was ever mentioned. My mother loved us to be sure. My dad? I don’t know the answer to that question. So, for us, “Happy Bird Day” was probably a better description of the day than “Happy Thanksgiving” would have been.
After I met Joy, at the ripe old age of 15, my understanding of many areas of life developed over time. God was the central figure and the One who gave purpose to her parent’s lives. Her grandparents, father, and mother prayed, not just at meal time but in private for one another, their kids and even for me. For Joy’s family, and eventually for me, Thanksgiving was more than a day off. It was part of living the Christian life. Thanksgiving Day was a day set aside to remember what God had done over the previous year and thank Him for His care and provision. It didn’t mean that all of life was trouble-free, but we recognized that it was God who provided all the good things in life, and Who sustains us through the trials and difficulties that attend this life in a fallen world. And yes, the meal was wonderful – another thing to be thankful for…
As I looked through Scripture, the word “thanksgiving,” in nearly every case – or indeed it may be every case – is directed toward God. The first Thanksgiving feast we have on record in this fair country took place in 1621 and included the surviving religious separatists we know as Pilgrims. We say surviving, because only about half of their original number survived the trip from England and the terrible winter they suffered when they arrived. The feast also included the Pilgrim’s new-found friends and allies, a Pawtuxet Native American named Squanto, and a local tribe called Wampanoag. Although the Pilgrims had lost half their number to malnutrition, illness and other problems resulting from living in such primitive conditions, they found reasons to be thankful. They practiced what they found in Scripture – being thankful despite their very difficult circumstances – for His provision. In this case, God’s provision came in the form of new friends who knew – and taught the Pilgrims – how to fish, hunt, grow crops, and which native plants were beneficial or dangerous. They were a huge blessing to the new arrivals.
Over the years, particularly in the last half century, our nation, even though greatly blessed, has largely lost sight of the importance and meaning of this day. That is sad, and a huge loss for our country as well. The day that was intended to be a time of reflection and Thanksgiving to the Creator for His many blessings, now reflects a nation which has forgotten God, and does not recognize from Whom their many blessings have come. Most do not seem even to realize that they have been blessed, but seek entertainment, chase celebrity, and go after the “next big thing” to give meaning to their lives. What a loss this is on a national level as well as the personal…
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God. Psalms 9:17 (NIV)
Thanksgiving is more than just a chance to get together with family over a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as pleasant as that surely is. It’s not about parades and NFL football games, as fun as those may be, and there is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying such things. But let us, especially as Christians, to make sure that we, in our homes and hearts, rededicate the day to remembering God and all His countless blessings to us. We thank God for you, our family and friends, and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!Ω
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