On Thursday, people around the country will gather in a feast celebration. Originally, Thanksgiving was celebrated in the United States and Canada to give thanks for the blessing of the harvest. It is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Other countries have their own traditions of celebrating the harvest. In the Bible, there are many examples of harvest feasts—even the term “new wine” comes from the giving of first fruits.
In the Bible, there were seven specific feasts (although everything appeared to have a food and wine celebration attached to it).
Yom Teruah (Trumpets)/Rosh Hashana
Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur
Tabernacles/Sukkot was also called the Feast of the Ingathering. It was to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Leviticus 19:9-10 instructs believers to leave a small bit of their crops around the edges and to leave what is dropped on the ground so that the poor and the travelers (refugees) can eat. Thanksgiving in North America did not have a specific date until Abraham Lincoln placed it in November. Each state celebrated at their own time. George Washington thought the tradition shared in the colonies was worth setting aside. The first official government sanctioned celebration of the day was November 26, 1789. Washington wrote that the day was to be set aside “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”
Thanksgiving is a day of celebrating what has been given to us in the past year. What are you thankful for this year?
In the gospels, Jesus healed ten lepers as he was traveling. The story is found in Luke 17, if anyone wants to check it out. The ten men called out to him “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (ESV Luke 17:13). Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. In those days, only a priest could verify a miracle. All ten men were healed, but scripture tells us only one went back to seek Jesus and thank him.
Luke 17:17-19 says “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
What was important about the one person who returned to give thanks? All ten were healed but what did this one gain that the others did not?
Do you overlook blessings in your own life?
An attitude of gratitude is important in life. The “ex-leper” in the story above was grateful for his blessings and he sought out Jesus to praise him. He could have gone on his way and appreciated his health but by giving thanks he gained a relationship with Christ that the others did not. Isn’t that the true lesson of Thanksgiving? To be honest, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with religious undertones. We tend to overlook its importance as we build up our anticipation for Christmas (another secularized holiday). This year, give thanks and mean it more than before. Be the 10th ex leper.
Be the 10th ex leper.
This Thanksgiving, try three simple things:
- Give thanks to God for everything in your life. Remember, there is a spiritual lesson in the good and bad. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
- Have true gratitude. Avoid complaining about anything. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” Philippians 2:14-15
- Don’t compare yourself with others. “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” Galatians 6:4. Your blessings have absolutely nothing to do with what other people have, earn, or spend. That’s not a bad lesson in a political season.
Alice Herz-Sommer passed away last year. She was born in 1903 and died in 2014—the oldest survivor of the holocaust. She was the star and subject of the academy award winning short film “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.” She had every right to be bitter. She was snatched away from a promising music career and placed in a concentration camp for artists, Theresienstadt, with her son. Her husband died there of disease. Her mother was executed.
She was rescued at the end of the war and moved to Israel and, at age 100, moved to London. She played piano three hours every day. People in London would gather in the street to hear her play. She was thankful for life, thankful for the experiences she’d had—good and bad. She repeatedly spoke of gratitude. Consider her words, below:
“I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.”
“Every day in life is beautiful, every day that we are here, that we can speak about everything. It’s beautiful.”
Alice Herz-Sommer had every excuse to be a victim but refused. She was thankful instead. What are you thankful for today?