I think there are at least a couple different ways to think about holidays like Thanksgiving. On the one hand, I’m grateful for the reminder to give thanks for the immeasurable blessings that God has poured into my life. On the other hand, I wish I weren’t so oblivious to God’s grace and so consistently negligent in the happy duty of gratitude.
However, while these two ways of thinking contrast each other, they are also related. The second is the reason for the first, and the first is part of the strategy for fighting the second.
My inexcusable thanklessness and my relentless forgetfulness when it comes to God’s mercy and provision stand as the horrid but real reasons why traditions like Thanksgiving are so helpful. Ingrates like me desperately need reminders and wake-up calls and traditions to help stir us back into thanksgiving and to stoke the coals of gratitude that never lack fuel but often lack fire.
Likewise, having and keeping and celebrating an annual day of gratitude is a welcome weapon in the battle against God-indifference. Thanksgiving is a day to sharpen and wield the weapon that bears its name.
I think that I could easily tend to be the holiday-basher who says, “Thanksgiving isn’t special! We should give thanks every day!” But I don’t think that’s a biblical perspective. The second half of the objection is biblical — we should give thanks every day. But the first half neglects to take into account things like biblical festivals which God set in place in order that His people might remember and celebrate historical events and miraculous acts and thelogical realities, all of which are worthy of remembrance on any day of the year. For instance, there must be something about Passover that honors God and stimulates His people in a unique way, a way that could not have been accomplished if the OT people had simply said, “We don’t need to celebrate Passover; we’ll just generally celebrate our deliverance from Egypt throughout the year.” I realize that Thanksgiving is not a biblical tradition or a scriptural holiday, but the connection is clear. Furthermore, I think that I would be ignorant and not just a bit prideful to say that I don’t need a traditional holiday to help me be grateful. Quite frankly, when it comes to greasing the gears of gratitude, I need all the help I can get.
Perhaps one of the few things worse than an outright enemy is an ungrateful friend. In relationship to God I used to be the first and I am now the second. And God has been eternally merciful to me both times. May I see many more Thanksgivings here, may I praise Him through all of them, and may the dawn of Christ’s return cause me to shine with the glorious reflection of gratitude so that all may see that God is great and that God is good.
“In everything give thanks.” — the Apostle Paul, 1st century Christian martyr