As a kid I used to wonder why turkey was only prepared during the holidays, Thanksgiving being the holiday of choice for the stuffed bird. Ham seemed to win out during Christmas.
I love turkey, especially the white meat. I guess traditions die slow, painful deaths, but at least today turkey is another food available all year round. Yeah! Even still, there is nothing quite like having the smells of turkey in the oven reminding me of the days when my senses were overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, smells, taste and feel of such glorious gluttony.
History records that the official day for Thanksgiving was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Our nation was in the midst of the worst war of our history, the Civil War. Attempting to somehow bring the nation together, the president authorized the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday for Thanksgiving. Many states had recognized a day of Thanksgiving dating back to 1621 when our forefathers rejoiced at having endured their first harsh winter in America. They invited the Wampanoag, a local tribe, to join in the feast. Since these native Indians had assisted the colonists in planting, they shared the bounty together.
In 1789 our first president, George Washington, officially recognized Thanksgiving for our new nation.
I also remember how Christmas decorations and sales events appeared the day after Thanksgiving. But did you know that in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving back one week to the third Thursday of November? This lasted for three years before it was returned to its present fourth Thursday. Why did FDR do this? Because he was trying to extend the Christmas shopping season. Some of you will remember that we were slowly emerging from the devastating Depression of 1929. It may appear to have been a blatant attempt at crass commercialism, but it seemed reasonable to the president, and you can hardly blame him for attempting to jump-start our sluggish economy. Of course, World War Two took care of the remaining effects of the Depression.
So I found myself asking the question, “Why have Thanksgiving at all?” I mean, what is the point of giving thanks? To whom? For what?
Well, you might be thinking that I’ve slipped a cog since I’m a preacher of the Gospel. Why would I ask such questions? Simple. The answer has everything to do with why any of us should recognize Thanksgiving.
The giving of thanks implies that there is someone to thank. True, you can express that thanks to some non-descript entity, or ethereal being, or some other deity of your own choosing. But by implication, giving thanks is personally, specifically directed to someone. For instance, if a friend takes me to lunch at my favorite Mexican Restaurant and picks up the tab, I would not then walk out on the sidewalk, lift my hands in the air and proclaim in a loud voice my thanks to whoever might be listening among the gods, or pedestrians passing by for that matter! My friend would no doubt look at me with grave concern for my current mental condition, while all the while wondering why I didn’t simply express my thanks directly to him.
Recognizing that God has blessed the land that produces the crops we harvest, a process many of us living in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley fail to remember, we should turn to Him and offer our thanks just as the Pilgrims did long ago. But more importantly, we should be thankful that God has ultimate control. Nothing takes him by surprise. The harvest may not be so good this year. We are to be thankful anyway. He knows what He’s doing and what He wants to accomplish in the affairs of our fallen race.
The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to give thanks in all circumstances. This is an act of faith. It doesn’t mean you understand why your crop failed this year, or why an early storm wiped out your plans for a huge harvest. It doesn’t mean you know why your husband has left you for another woman, or why you blew an engine the month after the warranty expired. It doesn’t mean you can even begin to consol your best friend when she miscarried. And it doesn’t mean that God is not there simply because you don’t see Him, sense His presence, or hear His voice.
The reason there is a Thanksgiving is to acknowledge God’s presence despite how you feel, trusting Him regardless of your circumstances. He loves you and desires to draw you to Himself.
Try it. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and don’t forget to thank Him!