Something More Than Just Turkeys
When we think of Thanksgiving, what images come to mind? For some it may be nothing more than food starting with the “old gobbler,” who was really just a “tom turkey” on some commercial farm a few weeks earlier. As the saying goes, “it begins with the gobbler and ends with the cobbler.” For others it is a big family gathering and for another group of us it centers around football or other sports events. We should not forget the many who serve in the retail industry who spend the day dreading having to go to work that night or the next morning. Most are just grateful to have a day off from work and may think of it as only another holiday.
Perhaps we need to be sure that we understand this special time as more than just a day of feasting. Not all our traditions are unworthy of celebrating, as long as in the Christian community we do not forget the deepest meaning of Thanksgiving.
In Psalms 111 we find some helpful words about giving thanks. “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; The Lord is gracious and compassionate.” The Psalmist gave us three excellent ways to “make the best of the best” in this season of the year.
First, true thanksgiving begins with worship. Recognizing and celebrating what God has done, can only find its best expression with the people of God in worship. It reminds me of people who rarely ever find themselves in corporate worship but talk about how they can worship God on the lake or the golf course. Certainly all of us can find reason to express to God our appreciation for the blessings of nature or the fellowship of family when not at church, but it is like music slightly off key compared to what it could be in accompaniment with regular worship with God’s people. God’s people were never created to worship in isolation. Whatever you plan to do in expressing your gratitude this Thanksgiving season, let it include joining with the family of God in worship.
Second, thanksgiving is a time to turn from our work and to contemplate God’s work. “Even for the secular world, God’s work is hard to ignore.” I particularly enjoy the verse which says, “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.” Did you know this verse graces the entrance to one of the finest scientific institutes in the world, the Physics Building of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. It stands as a remarkable tribute to the open-mindedness of a sophisticated scientific community to the blending of faith and science. The Psalmist reminded us we could not appreciate God’s work in this world with just a casual glance around us from time to time. But if we carefully observe and study the created world and if we meditate on all God has done for us, His power will become more and more evident.
Thanking God for what He has made helps us keep perspective on our own selves compared to His greatness. For example, the sun is 330,000 times the size of earth. But the star Antares is 8 times the size of our sun. And that pales in comparison to the diameter of the star Betelgeuse, which if placed in the center of our universe would wholly engulf Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and extend beyond Jupiter. While Betelgeuse is a giant star, it is certainly not even the largest in the universe. Looking at the vastness of the creation in this way helps increase our faith in an all-powerful Heavenly Father.
Third, Thanksgiving is about remembering. The fourth verse of the passage mentioned above says, “He has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” When one looks behind the English translation of the word “works,” it becomes apparent there is a different word here. The earlier one which says “God’s work is hard to ignore” used a word in Hebrew which refers to the physical things of creation. In this instance, the word “works” speaks of God’s acts in addition to His creation.
In other words, we are to remember not only what He made but what He has done and is doing for us and with us. One skeptic of the Christian faith said every church should have in bold letters over its doors and on all its signs, “Important If True.” Even as a nonbeliever he recognized the greatness of the message of Christianity. He would say, “If it is real and true, why aren’t you shouting it from the rooftops?”
The memory of what God was doing when Christ died on the cross for our sins should never die. If we have received forgiveness for our sins and the gift of eternal life it should never be forgotten. It is too great a story never to tell! Thanksgiving must include remembrance of what God has done for us.
Juliette Drouet, in writing to Victor Hugo, said, “I need your love as a touchstone of my existence. It is the sun which breathes life into me.” Daniel Defoe said it this way, “All our discontents spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have. As the Thanksgiving season approaches may we determine this will be our attitude toward our God. In so doing we will make the best of God’s best.