I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
I wonder how many of us are going to read an account of the first Thanksgiving as part of our festivities today. In the morning, many of us will stress out about cooking. In the afternoon we will most likely overeat. The Dallas Cowboys football team will be part of the holiday. Some will take a turkey-induced nap. There will be desserts and plenty of leftovers. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. I’m looking forward to dinner with family, a little football, and hopefully a nap as well.
However, the point of the Thanksgiving Holiday was a day to give thanks to God. Historically, when the Pilgrims came to America in 1620 and survived their first winter, they gave thanks to God by offering a Thanksgiving feast. They celebrated their survival, their new land and their harvest. The centerpiece of the feast was not food. It was giving thanks.
There are two areas for improvement in our Thanksgiving holiday. First, the centerpiece is not the turkey, the television, or even our families. The centerpiece should be the Lord. The focus of the day should be giving thanks to Him, and to one another.
The second area for improvement is that Thanksgiving should be celebrated every day. Every day should be a day to give thanks. I don’t know how many movies I’ve seen that involve a Thanksgiving dinner. And someone will say, as the family sits down to eat, “we must say a prayer TODAY because it is Thanksgiving.” As if to infer that prayers are not said before meals on any other day. Some movies even have the uncomfortable “who is going to offer the prayer?” Or they make the guest offer the prayer, as is to say no one in the host family knows how to pray. What makes for a comedic scene in a movie is actually a pretty serious issue. There are lots of families who don’t pray regularly. There are lots of families who only pray on Thanksgiving. There are many people, who if asked to offer a prayer, can only offer the Lord’s Prayer.
So here are three challenges for this Thanksgiving—First, when it is time to have dinner, everyone should offer the Lord’s Prayer together, and then I encourage you, to go around the table and everyone offer something for which they are thankful as part of the prayer before the meal. Finally, someone should offer a prayer for those who do not have food, asking God to multiple His blessings on those who really need them.
Second, in this age of technology, offer thanks to FIVE people that you won’t see on Thanksgiving Day, five people who are not part of your family that will gather around your table. Send a quick email, a text, or make a quick call and thank five people for being part of your life.
The third challenge is to make the concept of Thanksgiving part of every day. We don’t spend enough time around the dinner table together. Many of us do not pray before meals. And many of us do not take the time to express our thanks to the Lord or to one another. So, take these challenges and start incorporating them into your everyday life. Thanksgiving is perhaps the most important celebration of the year, because it is something we should be doing on a daily basis! There may be 12 days of Christmas, and in the Orthodox Church, 40 days of the Resurrection, but there should be 365 days of Thanksgiving.
Thank You Lord for this special day on which we offer Thanksgiving. Thank You for the food I will enjoy today. Bless those who don’t have food. Thank You for the family that I will enjoy my food with. Be with those who have no one to share fellowship with. Thank You for all the special people in my life (bring their names to mind). Help us to celebrate a meaningful holiday today, keeping our thanks to You at the center of our feast. Amen.
Happy Thanksgiving! And thank YOU for being part of the prayer team and for your prayers!