Three Ways to Redeem Thanksgiving

When it comes to Christmas songs, I’m a post-turkey kinda guy. As soon as Black-Friday hits, its beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our house. However, I ran into a unique problem this year. When we started Pandora radio, we found a “Thanksgiving” channel. Intrigued by the notion of Thanksgiving songs, we started playing the channel. To my surprise we began hearing, “Come Fly with me,” with Frank Sinatra dominating the Thanksgiving airways! Apparently, Thanksgiving songs have long been given a coup de grace.

Why don’t we sing about being thankful? At Christmas time, its easy to sing a secular song about the joys and doldrums of the weather or emotional ties to a warm fire. But when it comes to being thankful, we need to be thankful to/for someone. The problem lies with the human condition. We are naturally a self-centered idolatrous people. It is easy to be generally thankful; it is hard to recognize a true and personal God for whom we ought to be thankful. Not being thankful to God on Thanksgiving is simply a symptom of the secularism that pervades our home life.

Recognizing God at Thanksgiving

At Thanksgiving dinner our children will say they are thankful for their parents and various trappings and we’ll have our customary prayer. Yet, the largest portion of our Thanksgiving conversations will belong to football, Black Friday deals, and inventing reasons for a second piece of pie. God, in many American households, will get a prayerful name drop but little more concerning him will be welcome.

We all recognize that materialism continues to encroach on our giving of thanks. We know our society continues to progress in the sickness of consumerism. Yet, many of us adopt the secular Thanksgiving motto, “the best way to be thankful is to have more stuff to be thankful for.”  Our Christian families can push back against this materialistic tide. We can use Thanksgiving as a launching pad into the advent season.

Some Suggestions for Thanksgiving

1. Ask family and friends how God has blessed them this year
This isn’t an opportunity to brag or correct errant prosperity gospel theology; this is an opportunity to reflect on how God provided for our families. For my family this year, God provided us a church and a home here in Georgia. Personally, I am thankful that the gospel is reflected so beautifully in my wife. My children have grown in knowledge and understanding of Jesus. Thanksgiving is a proper time to recognize these blessings.

2. Spend time praying for politicians, rather than critiquing them
No doubt many of our families are divided over who should hold office. We could don our MAGA apparel or make sure the conservatives in our family feel-the-bern this year or we could agree to pray for our leaders (without backhanded comments). No doubt each one of us has a good reason to sit down at a glutton’s feast of slander and disdain for politicians. A godless Thanksgiving concerns itself with proving our cousin’s social policies are insane but a God-filled Thanksgiving is about being thankful to God for our cousin. Find a way to be thankful to God for people with whom you disagree.

3. Avoid complaining and arguing
We need to remember that God’s Word tells us to, “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Yes, the rolls got left out this year. Yes, the turkey should have been thawed long before the oven was preheated. Yes, our parents, in-laws, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. are still the same people we had to deal with last year. None of these factors negate or change God’s Word. Its time to set a Thanksgiving precedent for obeying this portion of God’s word—Do everything without complaining or arguing. Remember, critiquing each other is not the same as being thankful for each other. God has been so abundantly merciful with us this year, maybe its time to extend that mercy to family and friends at the dinner table.

Pastor Summerville First Baptist Married to Danielle, father of three, PhD student at SWBTS, MDiv 2012 SWBTS, BA Theatre OSU.

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