I was asked recently if I thought putting up decorations at the beginning of November is too early. I said that personally, I hate to see Thanksgiving get downplayed by the rush to celebrate Christmas, which has been largely secularized over the last few decades. The culture has already pretty much canceled Easter, & gutted it of any spiritual meaning. Other than Christians, people are generally clueless what it’s supposed to be about. Thanksgiving too has been gradually brushed aside so we can get on with Christmas sales.
Black Friday used to be the unofficial start of the Christmas season after Thanksgiving Day was over. That’s when the big sales started. But now it seems the entire month of November is one big Black Friday. Thanksgiving is just a day to get out of the way so that hardcore shopping can get into full swing. Thanksgiving is just “Turkey Day” when we get the family meal over with so we can watch the football game & hit the malls & surf Amazon. Its meaning has been lost.
The culture has also tried to cancel Thanksgiving by denigrating the Christian Pilgrims as evil colonizers who invaded the New World & brought death. They’ve linked it with Columbus Day which is also being cancelled because Christopher Columbus has been demonized as a villain who committed genocide against Native Americans. This indoctrination has led to replacing that holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This new false narrative describes Thanksgiving as a reminder of Christian “oppression.” That’s why I think it’s quite possible that Thanksgiving may well get canceled at some point & replaced by some innocuous holiday that removes any spiritual recognition of God.
But the real story is that the Pilgrims sailed to the New World to pursue holiness by escaping European spiritual & materialistic corruption. They wanted to build an ideal Christian model society. They didn’t invade. Upon landing, they entered a deserted village where the former inhabitants had perished, probably from plague. God’s providence is seen throughout the entire history. Squanto, one of the survivors, later shows up to welcome them. He had already embraced Christianity, and helped them plant crops & establish a trade agreement with Chief Massasoit. The 53 Pilgrims who survived the previous winter were later joined by 90 Indian warriors to celebrate a harvest festival of thanks to God.
It reminds me of the story of the little fourth-grader who stood up to give a report about the first Thanksgiving. She said: “The Pilgrims came here seeking freedom of you-know-what. When they landed, they gave thanks to you-know-who. Because of them, we can worship each Sunday you-know-where.”
God has been largely displaced from the holiday. But let it not be so for Christians. We will continue to count our blessings. While America has drifted far from its spiritual foundations, & there’s plenty to bemoan about what’s bad, we’re incredibly blessed to be living in this place at this time. We give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes. 5:18), even if it means thanking God that it’s not always like this. Even when there seems to be nothing in our lives worth being thankful for, at least we know the Lord is in our lives. We have eternal spiritual blessings beyond our senses that are greater than all things material (Eph. 1:18).
I’m thankful for all the folks at our church who show up to serve & to support. We can’t do what we do week in & week out without all those who volunteer, sacrificing their time & investing their talents. I’m thankful for their giving — it meets needs & makes a difference! Lives are being saved every week through the gospel being offered. People are being given guidance & wisdom for right living through biblical teaching. People are being put on a path to recovery. Families are being put back together. Hope & help are being brought to the poor. Kids are being taught that God loves them and has a will & plan for their lives. Every week, purpose & belonging are being given to students who will be able to grow up, knowing their identity is found in Christ, avoiding the mistakes that their parents made, & going into the world to make a difference with their lives.
Let’s keep Thanksgiving from being canceled, at least among us. “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise” (Psalm 95:2)!