In his Thanksgiving Day address to the country in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:
“Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings–let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals–and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.”
Indeed, Thanksgiving Day is a time for us to remember the many ways that we have been blessed during the past year.
In years gone by, the traditional day was celebrated with the best china, glassware, linens and, of course, the best food that the family could afford.
It was also a time for the family to gather, from various parts of the city, state, or country, to celebrate together.
When I was a child, we went to my Great Aunt and Uncle’s home for the dinner. It was a special time when relatives from another state would come and the cousins would sit at the “children’s table” in another room. Now that I am a parent and grandparent, I realize this is what you did so the adults could have a grand conversation which was uninterrupted and without hassle, usually about those who sat at the “children’s table”. The children liked it because we did not have to sit and be quiet!
Even in our home today, the Thanksgiving Day meal is more formal and “dressy” than the normal fare that we consume the other 364 days of the year.
Of course, in school we learned that the Thanksgiving meal was in celebration of the harvest and of the bounty that the country afforded the Pilgrims. So, in keeping with the “bounty” part of the holiday, we have food that is a traditional part of the celebration as well as a few new things to try. One year I tried a recipe of acorn squash with raisins, brown sugar and a number of spices cooked in the slow cooker. To quote my Beloved, “This is a keeper!”
In our home, although there are other foods prepared, the centerpiece of the meal is the turkey, all bronzed and tender. I recognize that it is not too good from the turkey’s point of view, but I know that it is exceptional for the family’s enjoyment.
Before eating, we “say grace”, a time when we thank the Lord for the manifold blessings that he has provided for us, focusing primarily on the food we are about to eat!
Then, after gorging ourselves with the meal, we visit and talk about what we are thankful for. Often the list includes friends, family, health and frequently the children will add thanks for their toys, pets, good grades at school, etc.
Often, while the ladies are cleaning up the kitchen, the children and gentlemen will go in the backyard for the holiday football game. For the grandparent, there is no tackle, but for the elementary school child the adult will not be penalized when he is picked up off the field, as long as a hug follows and the descent to the ground is not a drop.
Holiday traditions and stories are important to keep us together and to define who we are. Traditions and stories play a critical role in our life before God as He states in His Word.
For example, the Passover Meal is a time when the story of the Exodus is retold each year, even today, thousands of years after the event. Scripture admonishes us to teach our children about God’s acts in our life.
The act of thanksgiving is described and discussed often in the Scriptures. The Old Testament described the peace offering that was made to God in thanksgiving in Leviticus 7.
In 1 Chronicles 16:7 we read that David appointed that songs be sung in thanksgiving to God.
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” – [Psalm 69:30]
Psalm 50:4 tells us to:
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,” [ESV]
Scripture tells us that “grace” is more than just saying a quick prayer before the meal, although grace and thanksgiving are frequently paired. In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul states:
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you.”
Paul is giving thanks to God for the grace given to the Church in Corinth, a church that he established, counseled, and nurtured.
I remember learning the term G-R-A-C-E by the phrase “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” But, grace is so very much more than this trite phrase defines.
- Grace provides us with God’s love. Paul says: “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:14
- Grace enables us to do the will of God. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 tells us: “”Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
- Grace provides forgiveness of sin. “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,…” Romans 5:20
- Grace enables Christians to love others. “We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19.
- Grace provides us with the opportunity to fellowship with God. “”Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power…. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” Ephesians 3:7, 10-12.
I pray that we are thankful daily not just for the material blessings we have from our Father but also for the grace given to us by the Lord. We should think about this marvelous gift of grace from God and include it with humble gratitude in our prayers of thanks to God our Father.
Father, we thank you for your love that you extended to us while we were yet sinners, before we could even think of loving you. Thank you for Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, and thank you for the Holy Spirit who indwells us and is transforming us into the image of your Son. Thank you for our country and the freedom to worship that is provided. We pray that our leaders and those in authority over us would look to you, Father, for wisdom, guidance and discernment as they lead us in these difficult times. Thank you, Father, for your presence and for your mighty hand.