Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 24, 2021
I’d like to share with you why I think Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year. There are plenty of other special holidays with great messages and important times of getting together and celebrations or remembering, but Thanksgiving stands apart and above. It is the only holiday that happens new every year. Christmas is not about the gifts, nor Easter the baskets. Those ways of honoring the holidays are cheap compared to the value of Jesus’ birth and his resurrection. Even July 4 falls flat as a fireworks appreciation day because it is really about something so vital in history. All of those days are tied to monumental experiences in history. Thanksgiving is different.
It is free to be re-expressed or reinvented every year. It lives in the present through whatever traditions, sharings, fellowships and food we choose to bring to the table. We can do the same thing or something completely different. It does not depend on shopping, outside of groceries, so it is less commercialized. While it has darkness in its history (exploitation of the Native American population) and we should never forget how we stand on history, Thanksgiving as a living holiday can be reinterpreted to however we want to be thankful. We can be grateful to live in a nation where we are not afraid to have tough conversations regarding the treatment of native peoples. We can in gratitude expand our table to welcome those who are different for authentic fellowship. There are ministries out there whose sole purpose is to bring different peoples together for mutual understanding and edification through eating around tables. Jesus did a good bit of ministry this way, himself. Thanksgiving alerts us to the need to expand the table of grace and hospitality every year, even to strangers, especially to those in need.
Scripturally, thankfulness is huge in the mind of the faithful. Be constantly in gratitude (Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). Literally, the New Testament letters push this notion that gratefulness is a way of life. It goes to the core of who we are supposed to be in Christ as children of God. We have been given blessing upon blessing, even if we fail to recognize it. Once we open our eyes and our hearts to the goodness given to us, we can explode with gratitude. Grateful hearts are happy hearts. This is how God made us and how God intends for us to express ourselves.
Of course, Thanksgiving is hard for some, especially for those who are holding loss or bad memories around Thanksgiving. There is no getting around how holidays have emotional weight that they did not intend, but the goodness, the opportunity, the flavor, the virtue and the importance of having thankful, grateful hearts is so important to us these days that we need to observe Thanksgiving all the more. My waistline might not handle it well, but the benefits of gratitude can change this world, one table at a time. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
REV. DR. PETER SMITH is the pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.