Though the first official Thanksgiving Day many years later, the first recognized Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1621 and was a feast shared by both Pilgrims and Indians. The Indians were the indigenous peoples of the land and helped the Pilgrims by both giving them fish and teaching them how to fish, as the expression goes. This first Thanksgiving Day was the Harvest Festival from English tradition and it lasted more than a few days--Black Friday did not yet follow the original feast and the word 'charge' meant something different back then.
What were the Pilgrims thankful for? They were thankful for survival. And to whom could the Pilgrims give thanks? Of course, the first response would be God. But considering the help that the Indians gave the Pilgrims, they could legitimately give thanks to their hosts as well.
Compare what the Pilgrims' situation with ours. We have Thanksgiving Day but survival is not a concern for many of us. In addition, it has been quite a while since Americans have acknowledged any dependence on others in order to survive. Rather, we give thanks on Thanksgiving Day for living in the richest country in the world and believing that others could not survive without us.
But at this point it is important to ask, are we really giving thanks or are we using our prosperity to show off and congratulate ourselves? This is an important questions for Christians to ask about Thanksgiving Day. And one way to answer this question is to just observe what we do and where our focus is on this day.
What is it that we do during Thanksgiving? For one thing, we eat. We become gluttons for the day. And eating food is not the only way by which we become gluttons. We are gluttons in consuming entertainment as well. We watch parades and football until it is time to go to bed. And that is our schedule if we ignore the fact that stores are now open on Thanksgiving for Christmas shopping. And then, we spend the next day, weekend, and weeks shopping for Christmas gifts. And perhaps a question we need to ask ourselves amongst all of these good times is have we become like the Hebrews from Exodus 32 and I Cor. 10:7. For these verses tell us how the while waiting for Moses, the Hebrews asked Aaron to make idols to worship so they could sit to eat and drink and stand up to play. These Hebrews were referred to as idol worshippers. And it is the sins of gluttony and idol worship that we Christians need to ask if we are committing especially on the holidays.
We spend our days waiting to enjoy the spectacular. The spectacular comes as entertainment we watch and new gadgets we play with. We couldn't enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas without them. But what is it that we might be too busy to see? Could it be that we are too busy playing to see those in need both where we live and elsewhere? Perhaps, while we are eating Thanksgiving meals with our families, we should ask if we are eating Thanksgiving with those whom Jesus said we should invite (see Luke 14:13).
Basically, Jesus told us to invite the needy and those who cannot pay us back. Jesus told us to invite those who give us no status uplift by being with them: the outcasts. Jesus told us to invite these people because there is little earthly reward in inviting them and because each person is made in the image of God. So though it is good to be with family and friends, how many of us will be with those who are suffering and in poverty?
The answer to the last question tells us the location of our focus. Is our focus during Thanksgiving what we can get out of it or is our focus on our dependence on God and how we can share with those who bear His image and are in need? And if we are sharing with those in need on Thanksgiving, are we sharing with them on Black Friday and nameless Saturday? And while we have time to discuss anything we want, do we also talk about how we can change the system so that few people are in need?
Has our bounty become an idol to us or are we truly thankful to God? That is the question we Christians must answer this Thanksgiving and Black Friday as well as this Christmas. And we must ask ourselves that question every Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Christmas. And the answer can be found by looking at with whom we share Thanksgiving with as well as with whom we live and celebrate the other days with. For if our bounty has become and idol, then regardless of how our lips say we are thanking God, our hearts are far from such thanksgiving.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10