Earlier this week my children were excitedly discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Considering they are yet to come off their Halloween sugar high and the fact that Christmas is right around the corner (not to mention upcoming birthdays for two of them), I was extremely pleased that they were looking forward to a holiday like Thanksgiving which seems considerably less materialistic in nature. As I continue to listen from the other room, one of them runs in and says, “Dad, you know why I can’t wait for Thanksgiving!?” Anticipating something meaningful was about to be shared, I said “Tell me why, buddy.” He then blurted out with great excitement, “Because then you will let us listen to Christmas music!”
I had to laugh, because his answer pretty much reflects the reality of the season at our house. We intentionally do as much as we possibly can to put off the celebration of Christmas until after Thanksgiving is over. There is certainly some flexibility to this decision and it in no way indicates any kind of disdain for Christmas. We just feel that it is very important to take advantage of the holiday of Thanksgiving to help emphasize the importance of practicing a lifestyle of thanksgiving. Unfortunately, just like Christmas, there is great danger that the true meaning behind Thanksgiving can be obscured by our materialistic culture and values.
Before you start nodding in agreement and mumbling to yourself about all of those ungrateful pagans out there that don’t acknowledge that God is the giver of all good gifts, let me be clear that I am especially talking about the materialistic culture and values of those that are within the family of Christ. I am not saying that we as Christians are not thankful to God for what he gives us; I am merely saying that gratitude for stuff is the shallowest kind of thankfulness and still reflects that our priorities are material in nature. True thanksgiving is not about merely being thankful for stuff (though we certainly should be). It is not about being thankful for gifts; it is about being thankful for the giver. It isn’t even about being thankful for God’s blessings; it is about being thankful for God Himself.
I was recently struck by the truth and simplicity of this fact while reading Psalm 107:8-9. “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Notice that we are grateful for God’s love and works, but he is the one for whom we are ultimately thankful. He is the one that satisfies the longing soul. It is not for the stuff he gives, but for he himself that we give thanks. We are compelled to offer our thanksgiving to God because He is the only one that can satisfy – only he can fill the emptiness within us. If we become fixated on the gifts we receive from God like health and wealth and relationships and toys then we will never be satisfied. While those things are good, they are never enough. However, when what we want is God, then we are content no matter what other blessings we receive. This is the key to true thanksgiving!
Today, as you offer thanks for family and friends and for turkey and pie and football and killer Black Friday deals don’t forget to spend some time going deeper. I challenge you to go beyond mere gratitude this Thanksgiving and contemplate God and his endless love and infinite goodness. Consider the immense spiritual blessings he has bestowed upon you like forgiveness and salvation and strength and power and courage. Offer thanks that he is your deliverer from trouble and distress. Thank him for being your wise guide through the difficulties of life. Be thankful that he is your protector, provider, friend and sovereign king. Have a truly happy and blessed Thanksgiving while practicing the words of the psalmist, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so!” (Psalm 107:1-2).