In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re going to take a break from the regular fare of careers and money on this site. There are, after all, some things that are more important than money—and even careers! One of them is marked by this very holiday, but I think it often gets lost in the shuffle.
We’ll be sitting down to celebrate this holiday we call Thanksgiving, and what is it we will be thankful for? More specifically, who are we giving thanks to? Are we giving thanks to anyone?
The definition of “thanksgiving”
Maybe it would be best if we begin with a definition. Dictionary.com provides the following definitions of the term “thanksgiving” (little “t”):
“thanksgiving–noun 1. the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, esp. to god. 2. an expression of thanks, esp. to God. 3. a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness. 4. a day set apart for giving thanks to God.”
Notice that though the word itself is a noun, each of the definitions given describes an action—the giving of thanks. More specifically, it lists a divine entity—even more specifically, God, or a “god”—as the object of that action.
When we give thanks, we don’t merely put ourselves into some sort of state of thankfulness, as though it’s some sort of zone we enter where we’re at peace with the world. No, we’re directing that act/emotion to a source outside ourselves—the source we identify as providing the bounty we enjoy.
The many distractions of modern life
What ever personal definitions we want to assign to it, what ever modern re-interpretations may be floating out there in the pop culture, the Thanksgiving holiday is a day set aside specifically for the purpose of giving thanks to that Higher Power.
It’s probably easier for us to deny that Power than at any other time in history. Surrounded by modern conveniences—cars, televisions, music, computers and videos, comfortable in our temperature controlled homes, and having access to a pill to cure what ever seems to ail us—we can insulate ourselves for the “need” for any help that others before us sought from the divine.
But do modern conveniences mean that there is no God? At what point in history were we able to break the historic chain of worship and turn to ourselves and the work of our own hands for all of our concerns? And when we come to the end of our lives, can we or our creations preserve our lives, or offer us eternal peace?
A song I learned in elementary school
When I was young, every year around this time of the year, we’d sing the following song:
“We gather together
to ask the Lord’s blessing;
he chastens and hastens
his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing
now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name,
he forgets not his own.”
–We Gather Together, by Edward Kremser
We learned this song and sang it in public schools! Merely a generation ago, the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday was beyond question. It was a public holiday established for the purpose of thanking God for the many blessings He’d given us over the previous year, and even over our entire lifetimes.
What’s changed since then?
The object of my thanks this Thanksgiving
I don’t believe that anything humankind has done—or anything I’ve done personally—somehow means that God no longer exists. Not splitting the atom, landing a man on the moon or perfecting the microchip. While all those developments might impress the heck out of us, to an all powerful, infinite God, they’re the equivalent of ants stacking sand in a neat pile in the woods, and nothing more.
If we have any shred of belief that there is a God—even if we aren’t entirely certain of who He is and what function He plays in our lives—then we have to acknowledge His power over all things. Translation: all blessings come from Him, because nothing can be apart from Him.
Here’s my prayer of thanks on this holiday:
I thank God in Heaven for the blessings He’s poured on me all of my life. For the troubles He’s seen me through and the troubles He’s kept me from. For the time He’s given me in this life and the people He’s enriched my life with. I thank Him for the skills and abilities He’s given me. And for the balance He’s instilled in the universe that sustains us all. I thank Him for Jesus Christ—His Son and my Lord and Savior. Because of Jesus, no matter what I’ve done in the past, am doing in the present or will do in the future—my eternal destiny will remain ever secure.
Am I thankful for my country, my community, my family, my achievements and even the food I’ll eat on Thanksgiving Day? Absolutely! But all are components of the bigger picture blessings God gives us all our lives, often without us even noticing.
Who Do You Give Thanks to at Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a prime time for each of us to take a break from our “busy lives” and consider the Eternal. If we’re truly thankful, then we need to seriously ask Who do we give thanks to at Thanksgiving?