I’ve compiled other Thanksgiving posts that recant a little bit about Governor Bradford and the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, and President Lincoln’s speech as he declared the first annual official day of Thanksgiving in 1863. Interestingly, all those leaders’ comments centered on thanks to God. In this post I want to share someone else’s Thanksgiving observations because I agree with everything he has to say about it and it’s so well-written and so well thought out I reread it every year.
It’s unsettling that each year this gets more significant because we stray further and further from what he advocates. Just as The Holy Sabbath became The Sabbath which became Sunday and is now considered The Weekend or “Sunday Funday”, Thanksgiving as a religious holiday devoted to giving thanks to God became an annual celebratory meal shared with family, to a day of food and football, to Friendsgiving, to Black Friday, to something to be dreaded or ridiculed.
That’s a trend that needs to be recognized and resisted. And the true significance of Thanksgiving needs to be reclaimed.
I yield the floor to Bob Lonsberry who authored the following:
THANKSGIVING IS A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY
We get Thanksgiving about half right.
We count our blessings, and we feel thankful, but beyond that we miss the point.
We recognize that things are going pretty good for us, and that we’re very lucky, but we typically lack the honesty or maturity to see much beyond that.
We know to say thanks, but we don’t know to whom.
Ask yourself: If Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, who exactly are we giving thanks to?
We forget that the phrase “thank you” has a pronoun in it that makes a specific reference. We thank, we just tend not to thank anyone in particular.
And that’s sort of pointless.
So let’s review the basics.
The fourth Thursday in November is celebrated in the United States as day of thanksgiving to God.
This is a religious holiday.
Not pronounced such by any church, but declared by the state.
That’s right. This is the day the government sets aside for us to express gratitude to God for the blessings of our life. It is a part of our heritage, our culture and our law.
We, following the example of the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers, acknowledge officially that our prosperity, our liberty, our talents and our very lives are all gifts from God.
At least that’s what we’re supposed to do.
Though usually we don’t. Usually we cut out the God part. Usually we morph Thanksgiving into a simplistic reflection that mounts to nothing more than, “Gee isn’t my life great.”
Which is not the point.
This isn’t national inventory day. It’s not a time to tabulate exactly how fortunate we have been, to add up the ledger of Easy Street.
At least it’s not a time to do those things by themselves.
Because if we do, they end up being mere exercises in egocentrism and selfishness. They end up being about us.
And Thanksgiving isn’t about us.
It’s about God.
And about the fact that every good thing in our lives flows from his hand. It’s about the fact that we are sustained day to day, given breath and life, and prospered on our way by the specific and unearned blessing of God.
And this holiday is about acknowledging that fact and expressing it. As individuals, families and as a society, on this holiday we point to the hand of God in our lives and confess it.
In a world where people are ranked by and boast of their treasure and possessions, this day is a reminder and an admission that it is not us. It is Him.
And that the reliance on Him is elemental to our existence, no matter our material or emotional treasure.
Today and for years we have celebrated in a time of plenty. But it was not always so. In the Great Depression, as homes were lost and unemployment exploded and the economy tottered, they gave thanks to God.
In the Second World War, as gold stars went up in window after window, they gave thanks to God.
And at the first Thanksgiving, as the new American’s approached a winter that would freeze or starve many of them to death, they gave thanks to God.
Because they knew that, even as they suffered and faced reversals, they were held in the provident hand of a loving God. They trusted in His care and they accepted their fates. They built lives of faith, in joy or sorrow, sun or rain.
And so should we.
And the first step is to remember the pronoun, and how that short little sentence can move from the implied to the specific.
“Thank you” in this context, is, “Thank you God.” “Thank you” must be said to someone, it must have an object.
Just like our lives.
And God, in both cases, is that object.
This is the consummate American holiday. It features our foods – turkey, squash, cranberries, potatoes – and our recreations – football and parades. All are native to America.
It also includes our native bluntness about religion. In a country founded not by those in search of empire, but by those in search of religious freedom, thanking God is our birthright.
And our privilege and duty.
So count your blessings. Everything that beautifies and brings delight to your life. The joys and the sorrows. Everything that has bettered or strengthened you.
And realize where they came from.
And say, “Thank you.”
So this Thursday when we gather with family and friends and revel in our abundance, hopefully we’ll pause and pay due attention and appreciation to Him for whom we all are and ever will be indebted. ALL that we have is a gift from God. Confessing Him and obeying him is all He asks in return.
“And in nothing doth man offend God or against none is his wrath kindled save those who confess not his hand in all things and keep not his commandments.” Doctrine & Covenants 59:21
It has been said that “A thankful heart is the greatest virtue”. And President Hinckley taught that “The habit of saying thank you is the mark of an educated man or woman. Express appreciation to everyone who does you a favor or assists you in any way. Thank the Lord for His goodness to you. Thank the Almighty for His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who has done for you what none other in all this world could do. Thank Him for His great example, for His tremendous teachings, for His outreaching hand to lift and help. Confess His hand in all things.”
I wish you all a blessed and thank-full Thanksgiving!!