I feel that we have lost the point of Thanksgiving. What is your opinion of the purpose of Thanksgiving?

For many folks, Thanksgiving Day in America is couched in Nationalism where America collectively recollects all the reasons it is thankful (the holiday is celebrated in other countries for other reasons as well). While the earliest attested “Thanksgiving” celebration is disputed, it is the common tradition that Thanksgiving was first officially celebrated in America at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. This celebration was borrowed from the European harvest festival. I think the reason for its lost purpose, if it has lost its purpose, lies in the fact that the celebration was originally a “thanking of God” by the colonists, rather than the modern feeling of simple “thankfulness” in general. If one is simply thankful for what one has, without directing the sentiment to the One who gives everything, then logic dictates that it won’t be long before the means becomes the end.

The reason for Thanksgiving, technically speaking, for the original celebrants (as well the reasoning of it becoming an official holiday) was to thank God for God’s sustaining hand in the lives of human beings. It was not until the “modern” thinker (enlightened and post-enlightened) was being thankful for God’s grace seen as ignorant (ironically, the absence of God in one’s life, historically, is in fact ignorant by definition). Am I thankful for what I have, whether physical or metaphysical? Certainly! But I am not irrational enough to idiotically believe that these things just fell out of the sky. Nor am I self-centered enough to ridiculously believe that I have somehow manipulated reality into my apprehension of these specific things (Incidentally, the belief that things just happen and/or assorted self-help will power are religious in and of themselves). Let me make this clear: Logically speaking, one is not simply thankful without direction for such thanksgiving. Either you’re thankful to some deity (or whatever) or you’re thankful for and to yourself. Of course, you may just be confused and have mistaken some self-centered motive as being, in fact, “thankful.”

Thanksgiving is an inward expression of God’s grace. Thankful for the grace of His saving act through Jesus Christ, of His love for you individually and collectively, of His inclusive plan and purpose (i.e. including you therein), of His sustenance and provision, etc.

Thanksgiving is an outward expression of God’s grace. As thanksgivings abound, so God is expressed. It is not about giving thanks for, or out of, personal benefit (we should be thankful for God’s grace effectual in the lives of others, too). Thankful for family, community, friends, and the joint human experience in general, etc.

However, and with whatever and whoever, you celebrate remember this: “Thank you God!”

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