Let’s play a quick game of work association. When I say “thanksgiving,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Probably a table laden with a juicy roast turkey surrounded by all the fixings, right?
I enjoy poultry of all kinds, and I’m looking forward to another turkey feast this year. It might be smoked or brined or plain-old roasted, but however the bird is prepared, you won’t hear me referring to Thanksgiving Day as “turkey day.”
Why? Because taking “thanks” out of the holiday’s name shifts our focus away from gratitude toward consumerism.
It distracts our already scattered thoughts away from the Giver onto the gifts.
Here’s why I’m so careful with words: human beings are created in God’s image, and God created this whole beautiful world by speaking everything into existence.
Language is one of the ways humans resemble God. While we do not share his omnipotence, our words have tremendous power (Proverbs 18:21; James 3:2-12).
So let’s take a look at the word thanksgiving.
Plug it into your Bible software or online search program, and it’s easy to find at least forty direct references on a quick glance (not to mention the ongoing theme throughout Scripture).
In the Old Testament, the act of giving thanks is often tied to making a sacrifice. Thanksgiving accompanies praise and is an act of worship. It may be put to music.
In the New Testament, thanksgiving is part of the normal prayer life of the believer.
It’s the natural response to generosity. It’s the antidote to anxiety (Phil. 4:6).
And check this out: it’s the biblical opposite of profanity!
“Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks.” –Ephesians 5:4.
Finally, in Revelation, thanksgiving is one of seven things God deserves on a continual basis.
“Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 7:12
As followers of Christ, we understand God deserves our thanks every day in a thousand ways. Still, giving thanks is not our human default.
It’s easier to notice what’s wrong with our lives—how we’re hurting, where we lack, what we’d like to change—than to offer thanks for the many blessings we have.
Funny thing is, the more we give thanks, the more thankful we feel—and what better time of year to establish an ongoing habit of gratitude than a holiday set apart for it?
Here are some things I’ve found helpful for developing an attitude of gratitude at Thanksgiving (and all the time):
1. Tell everyone who is gathering to be ready to share what they are most thankful for over the last year.
2. A variation: one at a time, go around the table and share how you are thankful for each of the others at the table. (This is a beautiful exercise in affirmation as well as gratitude, especially between family members.)
3. If you aren’t already in the habit, decide to start your daily prayer time with thanks rather than requests. Your problems will shrink as you recall all that God has done.
4. Set up an ongoing “gratitude” visual. Using smooth river stones and a permanent marker, write something you are thankful for on a stone and place it in a clear vase. Various stones could represent answers to prayer, surprise blessings, or aspects of God’s character. Read these from time to time to increase your thanksgiving level (and feel happier).
This year, don’t settle for the consumerism mentality of “turkey day.”
Let the focus of the feast be your heartfelt gratitude toward God.