Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:17-19
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving in America. This distinctively north American holiday is one in which we engage this week. Families gather, a moment of gratitude is shared and the feasting begins. In the midst of uncertain economic times there may be a damper on some of our feasting. We may spend a little time complaining how the price of the meal has gone up this year. But what we really need is a solid dose of what this celebration was about from the beginning, gratitude to God.
The pilgrims had been through a hellish first year. H.U. Westermayer wrote, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” They chose gratitude in the wake of their terrible struggle. In the midst of their first year of bounty, the pilgrims reminded themselves of what they had gone through to stimulate that gratitude. At times that first year, rations were so depleted that the daily provision each received was a mere five grains of corn. At that first Thanksgiving meal it is said that by each plate were five grains of corn to remind them of why they needed to be grateful to God.
Any person who is in their right mind understands that there are no self-made men or women. Every one of us has others to whom we are indebted for our accomplishments and positions in life. There are parents, or teachers, or co-workers, or friends, or God in His graciousness. Our family has, over the years, tried to replicate that spirit of Thanksgiving. Most years we will have five kernels of corn at each plate and we will go around the table expressing gratitude for things in our life for each kernel of corn; five times around the table. Some years we have each taken three or five note cards and expressed in writing our appreciation for someone who has added to our lives. Those notes have had incredible impacts in the lives of recipients—sometimes being a reminder that God has used a life in an unexpected way. I have heard a teacher say upon receiving a thank you note, that it was the first student who had expressed thanks in their life!
It is not just others we should thank. It is a dangerous thing for our souls to forget God as the source of the blessings we do enjoy even in the midst of an environment we would wish ere better. After the Civil War, President Lincoln wrote in his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863,
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
He urged the American people to set aside this national day of giving thanks to return to the feet of almighty God and to worship and give Him thanks. May your Thanksgiving be filled with genuine gratitude that spills over to all that you touch this coming year, no matter what your circumstances.