Thanking Big: Reflections on Thanksgiving
2 Corinthians 9:15 – “Thanks be to God for his indescribable Gift!”
November 1, 7:02 AM. That’s when I saw my first Christmas-themed commercial of the year. My second was at 7:03. It seems like we begin the Christmas count-down earlier and earlier each year. To be fair, I love Christmas and even have a certain regard for the decorations, the eggnog, the trees, the TV specials, the music, and the eggnog. Did I say I love eggnog?
The traditional response to all this overdone and gaudy… tradition…is to complain that we celebrate Christmas too early, and to argue for the importance of Thanksgiving as the overlooked ethical powerhouse-holiday. In a sense, that’s exactly how I feel about the holidays: I think Thanksgiving doesn’t get it’s due. But in another sense, I think intermingling the meaning of Christmas and Thanksgiving is exactly what we should be doing.
Mind you, I’m not saying we should be stuffing our turkeys with candy-canes. The traditional foods, decorations, and family gatherings have very little to do with my plea for a Christmas-minded Thanksgiving. My point is that we’re thanking too small at Thanksgiving.
With very genuine hearts we give thanks for the many good things we experience every day: Warm homes, the love of family members, job security, religious freedom, and of course good food to eat, as represented by mounds of turkey and stuffing. It is right for us to be thankful for the unprecedented abundance we share as Americans, but most of us are well aware that many others in God’s world can’t give thanks for these things because they don’t have them. What could a season of thanksgiving possibly mean for the orphaned, the poor, the oppressed, and the hungry?
This is where I believe Christians worldwide have an opportunity to “thank big.” We sometimes wonder how God, who is Love, could allow suffering and hunger in His world. What we overlook in that question, is that God doesn’t allow it, at least long term. He takes the suffering of humankind in this fallen and sinful world so seriously that He has offered up the life of His own son to begin the world’s process of redemption. In the words of one of Christ’s apostles,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.” – 1 Peter 1:3-4
Jesus has overcome death, and will restore this world as well. Because of Jesus we have hope, and for that hope of a just, peaceful, and contented world we owe Him our thanks. In essence, at Thanksgiving (and all the time) we ought to give thanks for the message of Christmas: That God would not stand by and allow sin and it’s ripples of injustice to shatter His world. Instead he sent Jesus.
May we never allow the store-window traditions of Christmas to distract us from the thanksgiving we owe to Christ. May we participate in God’s Kingdom even now by spreading love, mercy, and peace wherever we can, and may we enjoy the holidays with full plates, full hearts, and in the fullness of God’s saving love.