The Disappearance of Thanksgiving
I'm going to take some time this week (I know, I missed last week again) to address a cultural issue that is really bothering me. I guess you could call it a rant...I'll let you be the judge. I've noticed a trend the last few years that concerns me a great deal. It probably hit me hardest last week. Let me explain. Last Tuesday, my wife and I went to the grocery store first thing in the morning for one of our favorite days of the year, November 1st. Some of you may already know why this is such an exciting time...its 50% off candy day! All that candy they didn't sell to people to give away on Halloween night is half the price! Now you might be thinking, "Don't I remember Ken blogging about gluttony? I don't think he should be going to buy candy!" I hear you. Rest assured that 95% of the candy that we purchased is to be used for prizes and motivation for our youth group (and a bribe for my ABF class). Sorry, I'm digressing.
Back to the issue. We were shopping the after Halloween sales and as I looked around me I discovered to my dismay that the Christmas food, decorations, and baking items were already on full display in the store. Almost a full two months until Christmas, and it looked like I was entering the North Pole. That's just plain annoying if you ask me. I'm not a Grinch (although my wife has called me a Scrooge during the Christmas season a few times), but I'm just not ready to go into full out Christmas mode the day after Halloween. I made mention of my annoyance to my wife and she reminded me that several TV stations were already airing their Christmas specials and movies. In fact, my DVR was half full because of Christmas movies by the end of the first week of November (as you have probably already guessed, I am not the one watching these movies; despite how high quality, exciting, and unpredictable these movies are, somehow I just don't really enjoy them; but my wife does). I know I'm not that old, but I remember a day when the celebration of Christmas didn't start until the day after Thanksgiving, not the day after Halloween!
By the way, if you want some enjoyment, you can listen to one of my favorite "Christmas" songs by Brandon Heath called "The Day After Thanksgiving". He seems to share my thoughts.
That brings me to my point...where has Thanksgiving gone in our culture today? It seems like the holiday that led us up to the Christmas season has been all but forgotten. We go right from the consumer driven holiday of Halloween to the consumer holidays of "Black Friday", "Cyber Monday", and the countless sales that will no doubt be everywhere you look. In the midst of all of this we throw in a few hours to eat turkey and pie with family. To be completely honest, I feel like we have replaced Thanksgiving, the holiday meant for us to sit back and be thankful for what we have, with days that are all about greed and discontentment. If you've ever been to a Black Friday sale, you know what I'm talking about. I don't think this is the way it should be! It is important for all of us to take a step back from the greed world to thank God for all that he has given us. As Christians it is a great time for us to be thankful for the gift of Jesus Christ and the grace that has been poured down upon us.
I've got to stop here for a minute to make sure no one is getting to carried away with what I am saying. I can hear the argument now..."So you don't think its good to take extra time to celebrate the birth of Christ?" Listen, lets not over-spiritualize this whole thing. Let's face it, we should be celebrating and remembering the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ every day of the year. I obviously have no problem with celebrating the birth of Christ all through November and December (and every month!). What I am talking about here speaks directly to the problem that society has hijacked Christmas to make it about Santa, presents, greed, and pride. Unfortunately I think this has crept into the Church as well, but that will be a topic for another blog.
The issue at hand remains. We as a culture have forgotten about being thankful. We are a generation of entitled, greedy, and selfish people. I know that sounds harsh, but as whole I think you would agree. Discontentment and a constant lust for the "next big thing" defines our culture right now (just think about what happens every time a new iPhone comes out). So it doesn't surprise me one bit that Thanksgiving has been so marginalized. Really, its not about the holiday itself, its about the reason for the holiday. Whether or not we spend a specific day being thankful isn't really the core issue. Its about being thankful as a way of life. The Disappearance of Thanksgiving Day, however, is a sign of what is going on in society; that we are an ungrateful and spoiled people.
So what do we do then? I can complain about this all day, but its not going to change anything! I wish complaining and being annoyed with something would make it all better, but we know that is never true. As Christians, I think we need to repent of our greed and ungratefulness that we all can be tempted by. Change begins with us. The Scripture speaks to us on the topic of thankfulness. We should be a thankful people, both on Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the year! Let's look at a few things that God tells us about being thankful:
1.) Psalm 107: 8-9
"Let them give thanks to the Lord for His faithful love and His wonderful works for the human race. For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things."
All people should give thanks to God for all that He has done for us as people including food, drink, and satisfaction. This is the most basic thanks we can give, for His provision for us. That is why the Pilgrims first held Thanksgiving. Everyday let us thank God for his goodness to man!
2.) Colossians 3:17
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
We should be thankful in everything we do! Every action or word that we exhibit should be seasoned with thanksgiving. Why is this true? Because we owe everything to Jesus! This world says to complain and grumble if you don't get your way. It says that we need to be discontent with our life and look for something better. God says that every part of our lives is to be lived in an attitude of thanksgiving. That is how we give glory to God!
3.) 2 Corinthians 9:11-12
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God."
Our blessings are not to be hoarded for ourselves. This works against thankfulness. We should be generous with what we have; this will pay the thanksgiving forward. The world says to be greedy and amass wealth for yourself. God says to let your thanksgiving become generosity so that thanksgiving will continue.
There are many other passages about Thanksgiving, but this is a blog article, not a novel. We as people need to live in thankfulness. As Christians we are to be even more thankful as we remember that God has not only provided for us physically, but spiritually through the death and resurrection of Christ. If we can start living thankfully in the light of God's grace it would be powerful witness to the world!
Let me close with a few thoughts. Please don't think that I am telling you not to put up your tree, lights, or not to watch your Christmas specials. Don't feel like you can't start your Christmas shopping now, brave Black Friday, or enjoy the mall. All I'm saying is that in the midst of everything, let us not forget to be a thankful people. Let's not treat Thanksgiving Day as a brief pause in the Christmas season, let us truly take time to appreciate all that God has blessed us with. Thanksgiving may have disappeared in our society, but it doesn't have to disappear in our hearts! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!