How is this for being thankful? Despite the many hardships that the Pilgrims endured in their first few years in the new land, Governor William Bradford, whose first wife had drowned just as they first came to our shores in 1620—declared November 29, 1623, as a day for “rendering thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.” This declaration followed the very first Thanksgiving celebration of a three-day feast with native Americans and pilgrims in 1621.
Thanksgiving was actually made a U.S. holiday by none other than our first president, George Washington, on October 3, 1789— declaring that upcoming November 26 (1789) as a public day of thanksgiving and prayer. Eighty-four years later, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation on October 3, 1863, declaring the fourth Tuesday in November as a national Thanksgiving holiday. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November— then moved it to the fourth Thursday in 1941, where it stands to this day. All to say the impetus of the holiday was out of a genuine thankfulness— which, many in this great nation have gotten away from.
In their book, “Putting God Back In the Holidays,” authors Bill and Penny Thrasher offer some wonderful suggestions on making the holiday a “season of Thanksgiving,” rather than just a day of feasting. Here are some tips from that book that you can start days in advance of the holiday. Although the Thrashers give a week’s worth of days, for the purposes of this article, I will start with the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Day 1— look at Colossians 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17: and 4:2. How do these verses contribute to the topic of thanksgiving?
Day 2— Make a list of spiritual and material blessings from Ephesians 1:3-14.
Day 3—learn this definition of gratefulness: “learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits I have received from God and others.” Then make a list of members of your family and write down one thing for which you are grateful. Tell them on Thanksgiving if possible or at your earliest opportunity.
Day 4—expand your list to include people outside your family whom God has used to bless your life. Let them also know as soon as you can, how thankful you are for them.
Day 5—read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Throughout the whole day, ask the Holy Spirit to make you conscious about giving thanks— no matter how big or small.
Day 6 (Thanksgiving Day)— take note of the difficult things in your life— people, circumstances and events, thanking God for His sovereignty, goodness and His grace in your life, while remembering it is God who works all things for good! According to Dr. Thrasher, “Expressing thanks is an act of your will, and the emotions may follow much later.”
In applying these (or similar) exercises to your Thanksgiving holiday, may you find a fresh reason to be thankful! May the Lord put a spirit of thankfulness in each of you!
We hope to see you at our Thanksgiving Eve service– where we choose to corporately give God thanks and praise for who He is and all that He has done!
-Pastor Joe Garofalo