Thanksgiving 2014: A Mid-November Meditation
It is truly sad that Thanksgiving has become little more than the opening act for a season of spendthrift Christmas shopping. Gratitude for what we have has too often given way to a quest for more of what we don’t need.. Increasingly, the verb that describes what we do on Thanksgiving is no longer “thanking” or even “eating,” but “buying” or “selling.”
Curiously, we seem to think that if we buy enough (or sell enough) we’ll be happy. This is sad, because it puts a price on happiness when God intended happiness to be free of charge. Like a ghost haunting a house, the very word “thanksgiving” haunts our celebration, a dim reminder that we should be grateful for what we have, despite being distracted from what we have by the desire for more of it.
In some ways, with the distractions of “Black Friday” sales, football games, and huge meals, maybe the hardest day of the year to give thanks is Thanksgiving. And if that’s the case, it’s OK, because thanksgiving is something we do, not just something we vaguely celebrate. It is an action that, when it becomes a habit, makes us happy. More importantly, it’s a habit whereby we learn to love God more and more.
The great blessing of thanks-giving is that it is an easy habit to cultivate. For example, if you can read this, you have school teachers to be grateful for. The same goes for your job. Somebody, somewhere gave you an opportunity to demonstrate what you can do–another occasion for gratitude. You’re alive and well? You have your doctor to thank–especially if you’ve had a serious illness. You have food in the cupboard? Water to drink? Friends? Thanks-giving is a matter of paying attention. There are countless blessings right in front of us that we may not have noticed.
Behind all of these occasions for gratitude is our Creator, the One whose creation is good and who made each one of us with unique gifts and abilities and created us for eternal happiness–who sent His Son to bring us back to Him when we wandered off and became lost in our own self-centeredness and self-importance.
All this is to say, don’t worry about what the Thanksgiving holiday has become. Instead, let the holiday be a yearly reminder to cultivate the happy-making habit of gratitude throughout the year. I leave you with the words of an old Gospel song, which reminded an earlier generation to pay attention to the good things God had done for them:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings–name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
“Count Your Blessings”
Johnson Oatman, Jr.