“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)
Twenty years ago, my grandparents celebrated Thanksgiving at our house. We didn’t decorate or watch football. I didn’t even understand the game then. Instead, my mom cooked a large meal – turkey, stuffing, vegetables, and desserts. I enjoyed the food, but I didn’t know how precious the fellowship on that day would be. One year later, my grandfather was in home hospice care for Alzheimer’s. He died just before Christmas. So the previous year was my grandfather’s last Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving isn’t about food and football, turkey and touchdowns. This holiday celebrates fellowship and time instead, telling our friends and family members that we love them. Must we create the “perfect” meal and watch the NFL on our flat-screen TVs in order to say this? No. We could go to a local restaurant instead, just to give moms a break from cooking and cleaning all day. We could miss a football game too, because we never know when a Thanksgiving meal could be someone’s last. Next year, we might be going to a hospital room, attending a funeral, or visiting a grave. Next year, someone we love might even be serving in the military or working overseas.
Thanksgiving isn’t about remembering the Pilgrims’ early years in America either. They didn’t care what they ate, as long as it filled their bellies. All they valued were the people, Native American and English, whom they spent this day with and the God to whom they gave thanks for their survival. These Pilgrims understood, too well, the pain of starvation, disease, and death. Do we? Have we thanked God for salvation in Jesus Christ and freedom of worship? Have we shown him gratitude for the bountiful blessings of family, friends, food, clothing, shelter, work, and wheels? Have we also blessed others with our bounty – sharing time, money, or stuff with food kitchens, homeless shelters, churches, charities, and people we love who’ve fallen on hard times?
We idealize the first Thanksgiving as Americans, yet most citizens didn’t descend from Pilgrims or Puritans. Their ancestors didn’t land on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. And that’s okay. Some people settled in other colonies; others came here from every corner of the globe. Some people landed on U.S. soil of their own free will; others had no choice. My ancestors were Cherokee, English, German, and Irish. The latter ones settled in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee. So I don’t think any of them celebrated a meal with Squanto.
Where we came from and how we arrived here doesn’t matter. Where and how we celebrate this holiday each year doesn’t matter either. The important things are spending time with people we love and showing gratitude for God’s blessings. So, on this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks.