Thanksgiving Is More Than Just A Holiday

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 95:2)

Satan has a stronghold on Thanksgiving. Have you noticed?

Retail merchants don’t play it up anymore like they did when I was a kid. They skip right by Thanksgiving and go from Halloween to Christmas. In fact, many of them don’t even close on Thanksgiving Thursday, denying their own employees the opportunity to pause and reflect on the blessings of life. There’s simply too much money to be made on Christmas for them to stop and acknowledge Thanksgiving.

History tells us that Thanksgiving has always struggled to enjoy a place of prominence in our lives. No wonder. The last thing Satan wants in this old world is for Christians to be free of the distractions of everyday living long enough to think about how good God has been to them.

We can’t even agree on when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving. Most of us were taught in school that the Pilgrims first celebrated Thanksgiving in 1621 in Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Originally 102 of them sailed here from England on the Mayflower, but only 56 of them survived their first year. They realized when their first harvest was so bountiful that they could not have made it without their Indian friends and decided to celebrate with a feast. The problem was it lasted for three days and resembled a traditional English harvest festival more than a true “thanksgiving”. Nonetheless, these early Americans were grateful just to be alive.

Today, many historians argue that the first “Thanksgiving Day” was not celebrated in 1621, but two years later in 1623. Massachusetts was experiencing a severe drought, prompting then Governor William Bradford to plea for the Pilgrims to pray. They did and it rained the very next day, insuring another good harvest. An appreciative Bradford immediately ordered a day of thanksgiving. Strangely enough, Thanksgiving was not celebrated again for fifty-three years.

When George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, the celebration had its share of detractors. Many did not believe that a national day of thanksgiving should be set aside just because of the hardships of a few Pilgrims.

Actually it was a woman who had more to do with our country’s decision to celebrate what we recognize today as Thanksgiving. However, it wasn’t George Washington she had to convince, but Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863, 74 years and 15 presidents later, decided to declare a day of Thanksgiving. Even then, it took Sara Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, forty years to write enough letters and editorials to convince a sitting American President to set aside the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

Every American President since Lincoln has signed proclamations commemorating Thanksgiving. Interestingly, the holiday has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year since 1941 even though President Franklin Roosevelt did agree on one occasion to move the day from the last Thursday in the month of November to the next-to-last Thursday. Guess Why? You got it: To create a longer Christmas shopping season. If the devil’s not in the details, I don’t know who is!

So while Thanksgiving as a holiday has struggled to get where it is today, don’t let thanksgiving as a state of mind struggle for any prominence in your life. It’s more than a season. It’s an attitude.

I am grateful for life, family, good health, and friends. They are much more important than all of the material things that have come my way. Time has taught me that if I lost everything tomorrow, I would still have all of them. So this Thursday, take a moment and thank God for the things that no one can take from you. After all is said and done, it really is Him to whom we should pause and give thanksgiving.

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