Three dates to keep in mind while celebrating Thanksgiving, 2015:
Autumn, 1621 – the first Thanksgiving, Plymouth Colony. Attendees; separatist Puritan settlers (Pilgrims), members of the neighboring Wampanoag tribe. Reason: to thank God for His blessings after their first harvest.
November 26, 1789 – General George Washington issues a proclamation designating November 26 of that year as a national day of thanksgiving to to the Lord. Reason: to thank God for His blessing in allowing the creation of the new United States and the new federal Constitution.
October 3, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln issues a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” Reason: freedom, prosperity, and relative peace in the midst of a great civil war.
We need this day. Before the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday when we will consume far more than Turkey and Pumpkin pie:
The National Retail Federation announced today [October 8, 2015] it expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase a solid 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion — significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent. See more at: https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/national-retail-federation-forecasts-holiday-sales-increase-37#sthash.eUcmuYZX.dpuf
Let’s put that $630.5 billion in perspective. That equals more than the GDP for 168 of the 188 countries listed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Another way to look at it – only 20 countries in the world (excluding the EU) have a total GDP greater than what we spend on merchandise in the months of November and December alone!
Like I said, we need this day of Thanksgiving – this despite an ad I saw on TV yesterday suggesting we celebrate today as a national day of “ThanksTaking.” This, despite a caption in the Thanksgiving edition of the Dallas Morning News editorial section – under a picture of folks with umbrellas in a downpour, thanking “the gods of rain” for ending our north Texas drought.
We need this day because we need the reminder that we humans are a contingent race. The impermanence, the ephemeral nature of our circumstances expose our frailty, and our inadequacy to manipulate our environment to our advantage. Our very breath – not to mention our flourishing – depends on the providence (i.e., the protective care) of Almighty God. We thrive at His pleasure and at His discretion. He isn’t almost sovereign.
The evidence of His sustaining grace certainly can’t be quantified with an inventory of our possessions, or by checking our bank account. His greatest blessings accrue in the incalculable riches of our relationship with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ we discover a personal redemption that is incorruptible. Corporately, we inherit a kingdom where ISIS, the Islamic State, and their venomous ilk hold no sway, where tears of suffering and sadness yield to dancing and singing.
We celebrate this Thanksgiving because we have been blessed with a sure hope that healing is on the way, though we may not see it in this life. That, while this may not be the best of all possible worlds, it is the best way to the best of all possible worlds. Our confidence is in Him, not in our circumstances. Not in our possessions.
It is the Why of Thanksgiving that we need to recall today, even more than the What. Focusing on the Why for Thanksgiving forces me back to the spiritual source of my deepest blessings: the person of Jesus Christ.