What is Thanksgiving all about?
For a lot of people, Thanksgiving has become a day devoted to eating a whole lot of turkey, watching the parade and maybe a little football before falling asleep on the couch. You then spend the next few days snacking on leftover turkey and stuffing while thinking about how fat you got. I know this because, for many years, I was the prototypical gluttonous slob who basically turned into Homer Simpson each Thanksgiving day.
Don't get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to disconnect from the world and stuff my face while in a state of ignorant bliss. You and I both know, however, that it’s time to make Thanksgiving about something a little more meaningful than endless mounds of sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
If you’ve been with us for the past few years, you’ve probably heard me talk about the trilogy of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Instead of looking at these holidays as three separate events, I think we should look at them as a process – one that gives us the opportunity to give thanks, wipe the slate clean, and renew ourselves ahead of the new year.
I am convinced that Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's are put together through divine providence, that when we are humble enough, we will see the meaning of Christmas and we'll be able to change our life in the new year. That's what it's really all about, I think, but it's the humility part that gets us.
Let’s start with Thanksgiving – the opportunity to humble ourselves and give thanks.
This year, I think we need to return to the values of the first Thanksgiving: a return to reflection, a return to appreciation for what we have, a return to thanks. We must give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy.
At the first Thanksgiving, they had every reason to be miserable, but they chose to be thankful. Of the 152 who made the trip to the new world, only 53 remained. They faced brutal weather, contagious disease, and malnutrition. It was pretty much a disaster. But rather than wallow in misery, the small but mighty gathered together to give thanks. They were thankful to have family, good health, and most of all freedom - freedom from tyranny and freedom to worship God.
They thanked God for sparing those who remained and for bringing them to this new land. They thanked Him for the Indian friends who provided much of that day's feast.
They made a choice to be happy, to be positive, and to be thankful.
Happiness is a choice, one you have to make every day when you wake up. If you wake up and decide to be angry, pessimistic, and ungrateful – it affects not only you but everyone around you. It’s not easy to choose to be happy, especially if you are awake and paying attention to what is going on in the world.
You can’t renew yourself without first taking a personal inventory of the things you are thankful for.
This Thanksgiving, make the choice to be happy. Make the choice to be thankful. First and foremost on the list is giving thanks to God - because all things come from Him and it is He alone who provides hope, even in (especially in) the difficult times.
So think long and hard about the good things in your life. Get on bended knee and be thankful for all of the blessings you have received. But more importantly, be thankful during your trials and difficult times as well. For while they aren't any fun, they mold our character, teach us important lessons, and grow our faith.
Have a blessed weekend, a blessed Thanksgiving, and for all of our gifts, we give praise to Him.