I know we all have our favorite holidays, and for many different reasons. But when it comes to “food holidays,” I just don’t know how you can compete with Thanksgiving. Incidentally, when it comes to Thanksgiving, I believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: Ham people and Turkey people. As for me, I get pretty dog-gone excited about my yearly overdose on tryptophan. And let’s face it, what meal couldn’t be made better with mashed potatoes and gravy! Don’t even get me started on pumpkin pie…
But, setting aside these culinary delights for a moment, there is a much more meaningful aspect to this holiday that is worth exploring.
By most accounts, the first gathering, from which we derive our current Thanksgiving holiday, occurred in December of 1621. The three-day feast was called when Pilgrim and Indian alike came together to celebrate their relationship, and God’s good provision. By the grace of God, and with the help of their new found friends, the Pilgrims had survived a very harsh first winter in the New World, and were now sowing and reaping their first harvest. Struggle and toil had turned to blessing, and a tradition was established to give thanks to the One who seen them through.
Continuing on that thought, in Deuteronomy chapter 8, the Lord told His people to be careful not to forget Him and all that He had done to provide for them, preserve them in their 40 years of wilderness wandering, and to protect them from those who would seek their hurt. God had been good to them, and had shown Himself faithful, even supplying bread from heaven to meet their need! However, knowing their propensity to forget the Source of their provision and protection, He sought to remind them lest they should overlook the Lord to their own ruination. In fact, when God gave the Law to Moses, He included in it the observance of a number of feast days, among the purposes of which was to give the people opportunities throughout the year to remember.
In the Scriptures, it becomes evident that God wants us to remember Him; what He has done, where He has brought us to, what He has delivered us from. Whether it be the feast days in the Law, stones of remembrance (Joshua 4), or the Lord’s Supper, God’s intention is for us to remember and acknowledge Him.
I can relate to the kind of forgetfulness that God’s people demonstrated in times of old (Actually, I can relate to most kinds of forgetfulness – They always told me what would be the first thing to go when I got older, but I can’t remember what they said!) You wouldn’t think it could happen to someone who spends a good part of his time trying to help people know the Lord better, but I find myself, just like the Israelites, enjoying the bless-ings in my life, while somehow forgetting the Bless-er. It isn’t that I (or they) have forgotten that God is there, but rather, because my tendency is to think that what I have in life is the result of my own ambition or accomplishment, I forget that, in truth, these things are a gift from His hand.
Interestingly, in that same chapter in Deuteronomy, the Lord reminded His people that even the lean times had been given as a blessing, in order that they would come to understand that though they might not always be able to count on the harvest, they could, without fail, count on Him. As I read that passage, I think about the last few years, and how much has happened to undermine our sense of stability. Be it rising waters or a sinking economy, we recognize that security has gotten to be a scarce commodity. At the same time, I’m also reminded the same God who’s gaze never departed from the Israelites and Pilgrims, sets His watchful eye over us as well.
Thanksgiving really is a wonderful holiday. It’s a blessing to be able to enjoy a tradition of (hopefully) taking a little time off from work, getting together with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company and maybe even a good meal.
All that said, on this oldest of American holidays, I’d encourage you to take a moment to observe another tradition that reaches back to the very first Thanksgiving – the all too often overlooked tradition of giving thanks to the Lord, the Provider of the bounty.
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving all!