By: Jenni Walker
“O Lord, that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!” (William Shakespeare)
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
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Halloween clearance items lined the endcaps of store shelves while Christmas music played. Signs near each aisle boasted of the soon-to-be Christmas season with messages like: “Make it a Christmas to remember.” “Jumpstart the Christmas season.” “Need some Christmas spirit? Check out our online options!” And it was only November first.
Where was the message of Thanksgiving? For many, this is the meaning of Thanksgiving now – enjoy a low-key Thursday and then shop until you drop on Black Friday. I saw a quote recently that said, “Only in America do people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” This, of course, is a humorously exaggerated experience of Thanksgiving, but for most of us Thanksgiving comes and goes in a blink of an eye. And for many of us, we do not even stop to consider the depth of its meaning.
What is the meaning of Thanksgiving? For many of us, it is a day of boxes to check off: The Pilgrims and Native Americans? That story seems rather antiquated, but I did put up a welcome sign with a turkey in a Pilgrim hat. I thought of things I am thankful for. I posted a photo of my perfect-looking meal and of the family that I love. Yes, I sure do have a lot to be thankful for…but Halloween is more fun for my kids, and now I need to move on to Christmas preparations so I prefer a low-key Thanksgiving. A little bit of family, food, football…‘Tis the season!
Again, what is the true meaning Thanksgiving? It is more than just a day: by God’s design, it is a way of life that should be emphasized, celebrated, and put into practice all throughout the year. Am I thankful only when life feels easy? Do I demonstrate my thankfulness for my family in actionable ways year-round? Am I thankful for the instant gratification of things more than I am for intangibles like high moral character built over a lifetime? Do I say that I am thankful for salvation through the work of Jesus on the cross but not live a life that testifies of it it through the ongoing work of being a “living sacrifice” with a life of service to the Lord? Do I say that I am blessed but not demonstrate it in my thoughts, words, and actions?
The even larger question is this: to Whom do we give thanks? Like the commemorated meal of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans that first Thanksgiving, together we look up to the Source of all our blessings and say, “Praise GOD from Whom all blessings flow, praise HIM all creatures here below!” By God’s design, thanksgiving is something to be practiced not just one day a year or merely as lip service. It is meant by God to be transformative in our lives if we will remember several important aspects about what it truly means to have a thankful heart.
Thanksgiving: An Attitude
“An attitude of gratitude” is more than good manners and saying please and thank you. We are called to approach and respond to each part of life with hearts that are surrendered to the Lord. He is our Creator, our Shepherd, our Savior, our Lord, and we come to Him on His terms, not our own. And for this we are grateful, because the One to whom we have surrendered our lives and chosen to follow for all of our days is who He says He is. And He not only says it – He reveals Himself actionably!
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for thanks means “Acknowledging what is right about God in praise and thanksgiving (1 Chr. 16:34). It can also mean a right acknowledgment of self before God in confessing sin (Lev. 26:40).” (Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 419.) Thanksgiving God’s way begins with an attitude of surrender to the lordship of Christ – acknowledging our need for Him and praising and thanking Him for who He is.
In Psalm 100, we are given a beautiful depiction of how a thankful heart is two-fold as both an attitude and action:
Do:“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.Serve the LORD with gladness;Come before Him with joyful singing.”
Know:“Know that the LORD Himself is God;It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
Do:“Enter His gates with thanksgivingAnd His courts with praise.Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”
Know:“For the LORD is good;His lovingkindness is everlastingAnd His faithfulness to all generations.”(Psalm 100)
True Thanksgiving begins with a heart of thankfulness for who God is and for what He has done! As we prepare for our festivities, let us also prepare our hearts in worship and gratitude to our Lord.
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