Ah, Thanksgiving! The one consumerism couldn’t destroy.
Not for lack of trying, of course. Sure, companies try to get into the game every year, but despite all their best efforts, Thanksgiving has staunchly resisted the crass commercialism that took Christmas and Halloween and threatens to take Easter soon, too. That’s part of why, as my dad has always said, Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. It lacks the pomp and circumstance of Christmas; there’s no presentation to be made or appearances to be kept up: Thanksgiving is about family and gratitude. Also about really cheap TVs. But mostly family and gratitude. And turkey.
The bizarre thing is, this is not the standard American mindset (except the TVs and turkey). Think about the week of Thanksgiving 2014. The last four days have been real doozies: the unrest in Ferguson, worldwide Ebola deaths are over 5,500, President Obama’s latest policy on immigration, Black Friday. And Americans are complaining, complaining, complaining, while still participating in all of it. We’re not typically a thankful bunch.
But for many of us, Thanksgiving itself is different. Today is better. For a day, we forget ourselves and remember all the gifts and grace we’ve been given. We take time out to celebrate those gifts with people we care about. And if it only happens once a year, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
Thankfulness Reminds Us
that We Need Mercy
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
We deserve death, but God gives us mercy. We’re a needy people, and this is a good thing; our self-sufficiency will not serve us before a sovereign God. But He will serve us, by the powerful mercy of His sacrificed Son.
Thanksgiving Reminds Us
of the Boundless Grace We’ve Been Given
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
If mercy is not getting what we deserve, grace is getting what we do not deserve. During Passover, Jewish celebrants sing a song called “Dayenu,” which means “It would have been enough for us.” In the song, the singers recount the great actions that God did for them, and for each of the actions remember that if His grace had stopped there, He would still be a great God worthy of highest praise.
Let’s add another: “If He had given us Jesus as Savior and the Holy Spirit as guide, and not given us anything else – Dayenu, it would have been enough for us!”
Through Christ, we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,” personally appearing before God with prayer and need. Over death, He “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And He admonishes us “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” And if He’d stopped after giving us any of those things, it would have been enough.
Thanksgiving Reminds Us
of Who Christ Is
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
As we give thanks today, the unavoidable light of Christmas looms on the horizon; for some a sign of fear and stress, but for many a sign of hope. Let it be for you a cause for thanks: Christ the Redeemer has come, and we can approach Him! Don’t forget His mercy. Don’t forget His grace. But above all, don’t forget Him.
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Here at Redeeming Culture, we’re thankful for you, our readers. As you’re going about your Christmas shopping this month, we’d also appreciate it if you bought your Amazon purchases using our referral link. For instance, you can buy the classic cartoon A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on Amazon and support Redeeming Culture at no additional charge. Thank you!
Header image is from the Library of Congress, a sketch of an 1861 Thanksgiving meal prepared at a Civil War Union army camp. Article image is from Wikimedia Commons, a photo of a 1942 family Thanksgiving at the home of Earle Landis.