One of the grand traditions of America is our tradition of taking one day out of the year and setting it apart as a special holiday–a holy day–a day to commemorate the benevolent providence of God. It was originally called Thanksgiving. The idea of Thanksgiving day has its roots in our own history, in the bitter struggle that the original founding fathers of this country had with the elements.
The pilgrims who came to these shores in 1620 had their ranks depleted by almost fifty percent in the first year of their struggle in the new world. They lacked the shelter, food, and supplies that they needed to endure. But instead of being bitter at the severe losses that they experienced, as people and as Christians they were grateful to God for His kindness. And it was in their culture that the first Thanksgiving took place. It was then given new impetus during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, who made a national proclamation to restore this time of reflection and celebration of the goodness of God.
But we live in an age in which the culture has changed dramatically. It is now called the “secular age,” but we still have the tradition. Do you notice the subtly in which the meaning of this tradition has gradually eroded? Now it is almost as commonplace to hear this particular Thursday in the month of November being described as “Turkey Day” as it is to be described as “Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving is a moment to express profound, deep, sincere and genuine gratitude to the providence of God for a year’s worth of tender mercies that we have received from the hand of His benevolence. From his care, from His comfort, from His guidance, from His government of our lives, we are to take time to be grateful.
I think the resistance to that spiritual dimension of Thanksgiving is not something that is particularly symptomatic of our generation or culture. The resistance to authentic Thanksgiving is inherent to fallen humanity. It is not inherent to humanity as such because when we were created originally in the image and the likeness of God, in the pre-fall Garden of Eden, every day was Thanksgiving day. Every day was a day of feasting upon the fruit that God had made available for His creatures. And every moment God came into the garden He was greeted by loving, adoring creatures whose hearts were filled with gratitude to even be in the presence of God.
But with the fall something serious happened. Something penetrated the very soul of our humanity that still persists to this day. And that is a deep rooted reluctance toward gratitude before God.