Reclaiming Thanksgiving

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” —1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Years ago, our family was invited to celebrate Thanksgiving at the home of a couple we didn’t know too well, but were casual acquaintances. It was a break from how we traditionally spend Thanksgiving in our own home. The meal was rushed through while football on the big screen became the main event that absorbed all the attention. Before we even got through the dessert, the hosts had newspaper ads spilled out all over the floor as they feverishly combed through them for Black Friday deals.

That experience, coupled with the increasing consumer madness we are seeing in our society around this time of year clearly indicates that the true meaning of Thanksgiving has been hijacked in our culture. The spirit of humble gratitude surely needs to be reclaimed in this generation, and perhaps in some of our homes.

Thanksgiving for the Christian is more than just another holiday and there’s no better time to set a precedence of gratitude toward God than during this special season. Writer Kristi Winkler suggests some ways to celebrate Thanksgiving from a biblical perspective. Here are some of those ideas:

Set aside time to describe the importance of thanksgiving as laid out in scripture

In I Thessalonians we are commanded “in everything give thanks”—in everything! It’s a requirement, but also a privilege and it shifts our focus from our problems to His great grace! In another passage, we are told to present all of our requests to God with a heart of thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). Part of the discipline involved in being thankful is to realize the goodness of God and his everlasting love toward us (Psalm 107:1); that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17); and when thankfulness is combined with prayer and supplication it is a cure for anxiety and conduit of peace (Philippians 4:6).

Share the “Thanksgiving Story”

From the first feast of thanks with the pilgrims and Indians to the sordid trail of retail pressures in selecting the current date for Thanksgiving Day, the entire journey is of significance and is all worth mentioning. From thankfulness to greed we come full circle. The curse of sin will always taint even the best of intentions as long as we’re here on earth, as it has even on this holiday originally set aside to declare and celebrate thankfulness to God. Thanksgiving is a chance to identify true gratitude and separate it from the materialistic and secular bend that seeks to divert gratitude and devotion from God to idols. And just as God can redeem the time, he can redeem this day, starting with us.

Serve from the abundance

The passage found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is an encouragement to be generous out of the many blessings we have received. There are numerous practical ways to share from the abundance, not “reluctantly or under compulsion” but with joy! Try reaching out to the less fortunate on Thanksgiving. Serve at a soup kitchen, a retirement home, or a children’s hospital—seek out the needs of any neighbor experiencing hardship.

Thanksgiving offering to a family in need

This is a little redundant considering the previously mentioned “serve from abundance” category but I wanted to expound. Organize an outreach that involves recognizing the blessing we ALL experience and reaching out to those who are currently struggling with unemployment, unplanned emergency bills and other hardships. In general, organize a program for families to select another family to bless with food supplies, thanksgiving dinner, clothes, and toys or even help with unexpected expenses.

Host a small group potluck of thanks

This is a great opportunity for the members of your small group to revitalize one another’s faith with testimonies to the goodness of God in their lives. Encourage each guest to come ready with a specific thing that God has done to share with the group.

Wall of Thanks

Clear out an entire wall for posting words of thanks throughout the Thanksgiving season. In the church or in the home, clearing out some wall space for “family” members to contribute thoughts, show gratitude and express thanks in writing and illustration is the perfect outlet for cultivating a culture of thanksgiving as well as a place to reflect on some good news, for a change.

“I am thankful” projects for kids

Don’t forget the little guys and gals this season. A spirit of gratitude should be taught and instilled in the hearts of children from an early age. Whether it is a poster, jar, pocket or folder, create a place for children to add the things they are thankful for throughout this Thanksgiving season; something creative that they can share with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day and something that they can rehearse throughout the year.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you and your family as you seek to abide in Him during this festive season of giving thanks and living from a heart of gratitude. If you are looking for discussion questions for your Thanksgiving gathering, here are twenty good questions for thought provoking conversations.

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