Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, and even the origin of Thanksgiving that we are taught in school are somewhat sketchy. But I love the fact that we gather once a year with family and friends to give thanks for the blessings of the year. The fact that we limit it to once a year is also problematic.
Abraham Lincoln started the tradition back in 1863, but the date that the holiday was celebrated moved around for many years. In 1942, Congress settled on the fourth Thursday of November which is when we celebrate the holiday today.
While the intention is to have a common day of Thanksgiving, it still seems that we forget that Thanksgiving Day, while an important holiday, is hardly reason to save up all our thanks to be expressed on a single day each year. But we often do that.
Even then, the meaning of the holiday, much like Christmas, can get lost in the hustle and bustle of the day’s activities.
“Let’s give thanks for lots of food.” “Let’s give thanks for naps.” “Let’s give thanks for football.” None of those things are bad, but they do seem to trample over the actual meaning of the holiday, which was set aside so that we could give all thanks for the blessing we have received throughout the year.
At this time of the year, I often am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in the 10th chapter of Luke where Jesus is invited to come and eat with them. Martha is running around trying to make sure everything gets done. “Is the table set? Is the turkey done? Is anyone dealing with the green bean casserole? Is the pumpkin pie in the oven? Where’s the dressing? We can’t forget the dressing!”
While Martha is busy making sure that everything will be ready in time, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teachings. Well, Martha sees this and has a hissy fit. After all, with everything that was needed to be done, why was Mary not helping? What makes her so special that she can just sit there while Martha does all the work? Martha wants Jesus to speak to Mary and tell she needs to get up to help. But Jesus says this to her in verses 41-42 (NIV):
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
In other words, Martha has created this environment that is so full of worry and confusion that she had forgotten why Jesus was there to begin with. She has forgotten that Jesus fed over five thousand people with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread. She has forgotten that the bread and wine of the spirit are so much more important than filling everybody’s bellies, taking naps, or watching football games.
Today, let us all take time to relish in the joy of giving thanks together for all that God has provided. And then, why don’t we consider taking it a step farther by thanking God every morning, before we get out of bed, for all that He is going to provide throughout the day. And when we head off to bed, let us thank God for all that He has given us throughout the day. Let us never allow the worry and anxiety of the day to stand in the way of our giving thanks. Let us never forget how blessed we are.