Pastor's Pen: Thanksgivings past

I was talking with my dad the other day and reflecting on Thanksgivings past. It was always a special time. I would wake up to the smell of turkey cooking in the house and then go into the living room to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. My grandmother had to be certain that was on every year. We would have hot turkey sandwiches for a light lunch and that evening our house of five would quickly expand as my uncles, aunts and cousins from my dad’s side of the family would fill every space to get their fill of football and food. The years have passed and many things have changed since those days. My grandmother has passed on, the family gathering is much smaller as everyone now spends time with other members of their families and the day off is becoming less and less a reality for many people.

Days of Thanksgiving have been declared by presidents over many years as a day to give thanks to God. It’s a day to remember His blessings and His grace upon us. Many fear that with shopping now extending into the once-held-dear peace of Thanksgiving that this will all fade away. In reality, it has for some time. A day set aside for thanking God simply became a family day. The turkey became more exalted than the One who had provided it. So perhaps it was inevitable that even family would become less important than consumerism.

In the middle of a war that divided our country, Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving, the same day we still celebrate. Here are a few of his words:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Even in Lincoln’s day God had taken a back seat in people’s minds. Yet God still forges a stronghold in communities and the nation. Why? Because of each one that set aside a day….an hour….a minute at a time to praise the God that gives all good things.

Rather than worrying about what the nation or even your neighbors are doing this Thanksgiving, take time yourself to gather with those in your household and honor the God who has blessed you with so much. Perhaps use the challenge below as a starting point.

CHALLENGE: Take time as a family to list your top 50: 20 items you’re thankful for, 20 people you’re thankful for and 10 events from this past year you’re thankful for. Then pray together thanking God for each item on the list.