I’ve been thinking today about how “Thanksgiving” has been made a holiday instead of it simply just being a way of life. We all know that Thanksgiving was a British marketing endeavor to exploit the new world and make an international holiday of tasty food since their cuisine
is was so bad. It just took a little longer to catch-on than the marketing groups thought because their trans-Atlantic internet speeds were so slow. ;-)
Actually, one of the common sentiments that I’ve heard in these last years (mostly from my American friends and family) is that Thanksgiving has lost its meaning and significance. Sadly to many, Black Friday has become black everything. Stores now stay open incessantly. Families don’t eat together. Restaurant dining instead of family gathering is the new thing. Meals are inhaled because football (versione Americana) is starting. And worst of all, many people find it difficult to list more than one thing for which they are thankful. The culture has shifted, and for many, that’s difficult turkey to swallow.
The conundrum is if we are a self-absorbed culture, we can only be thankful for what we achieve and what we take. Also, the only person we really desire to give thanks to is ourself, but we’re not satisfied with that person, ever. Yet, the reality of gratitude is that giving thanks demands acknowledgment of another, greater person who has acted favorably on your behalf. Said differently, if we struggle to give thanks, it’s simply because we’ve adopted our culture over the Christ story and we’re too auto-centric.
Christocentric people are Thanksgiving people.
The affectionately called Pilgrim Fathers were repeatedly ridiculed and threatened by their ship’s crew for their thankful worship. As an insult, they were called Psalm-singers because of their gratitude toward God while they sang with the waves both smooth and rough on their passage. What was so “awful” to the mariners was the Pilgrims’ pursuit of Christ together which manifested in a communal gracious spirit over difficult waters and sicknesses. How could they have been so thankful when we have abundance and complain so much about it?
Thanksgiving for a Christian is not just something we say, it’s a mark of who we are. It is a vocal realization of favor, toward us, from the Father. Favor comes in pleasurable forms like blessing and not-so-pleasurable forms like discipline. But it’s all from God, and it’s all good. So, now you have a huge list for which to be thankful.
But here’s the underlying motive:
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.“
Three times in verses 15-17, thankfulness is mentioned and connected to Jesus. In verse 16, a fair understanding would be that when the message of Christ (the Scriptures) is given a royal priority and permeates God’s children then wise teaching, correction, all kinds of Spirit-borne songs, and thanksgiving is going to result. In fact, seeing that Jesus is enough and filling up with him will literally draw gratitude out of you toward God. Gordon Fee wrote it well, “The focus is not so much on our attitude toward God as we sing, but on our awareness of his toward us that prompts such singing in the first place.” [God's Empowering Presence, p. 655]
The best way to be un-thankful is to get so distracted (turkey, football, 75% off sales, whatever…), and turn inward so that we have no fresh vision of the anointed Christ. We will be isolated, materially contented, spiritually lazy, wayward, song-less, and simply ungrateful toward God and others. I once had a self-assured guy come to my church for a while and one of his complaints was, “I don’t know why we have to sing songs anyway.” Sadly, he would skip our music times. Also, sadly, I think he only had a notion of what it meant to know the real Christ Jesus.
If you know Christ, then enjoy filling the air with thanksgiving today (and perpetually) as the Father draws it out of you. In Christ, it is who we are.