Thanksgiving is one of the highlights of the year for most of us as it provides a wonderful opportunity to pause with family and friends and give thanks to God for all His many blessings. Although this holiday is uniquely a result of the Pilgrims’ reverence and gratitude to the Lord for preserving them, much of that is forgotten and neglected in homes today. It takes a lot of effort and pushback against the prevailing cultural pressures to keep the focus on God and His gracious blessings. Rather than focusing exclusively on food and football, be thinking early on this month how you will introduce a Godward direction to this time of feasting.
No doubt you’ve given some thought to this already, and none of these suggestions are new, but Lord willing, they will be the catalyst for your own, more creative ideas. So please prayerfully consider introducing something like this as a new tradition for Thanksgiving. Volunteer to serve a meal at one of our local missions. Visit a nearby nursing home and perhaps take some treats for the staff that has to work instead of spending the day with their own family. Make some calls now and invite some international students to your home to share this holiday meal (we have the privilege of several campuses relatively close to us). Remember, most other countries do not celebrate Thanksgiving and this is a great opportunity to share not only the cultural history of this tradition, but to introduce God and the Gospel as the reason for this feast. You also are likely to have neighbors or coworkers who are perhaps not familiar with the history of this holiday, invite them over! If a full Thanksgiving meal is too much, open your home simply for dessert, or make it a potluck meal. And if your Thursday is spent traveling or exclusively with family or you have to work, then plan another time around Thanksgiving to practice hospitality. Pray for eyes to see the need around you and pray for the courage and kindness to help meet those needs for fellowship and friendship. Oh, and be especially (but not exclusively) aware of the opportunities within our own church family to share some blessed table fellowship. And as we are sensitive to the needs of others, we will remember that for some, the holidays are a very lonely and depressing time of year, a time when Jesus Christ and the hope of the Gospel is most needed.
Thank you for taking time to pray about these things and be a great witness for Christ this month, even as we anticipate and prepare to celebrate God’s greatest gift of His Son for the salvation of sinners just like us.
But you may have noticed that the title of this article is “Giving Thanks for God” not “giving thanks to God”. Yes, I certainly want to encourage you to give thanks to Him! As we sing every Sunday, we are to “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” But particularly this month I wish to point us to the marvelous blessings of the doctrines of grace that are from God. As we have looked last month and more recently the last two weeks of Sunday School, the Reformation was a recovery of the Bible’s teaching that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone—to God alone be the glory! Historically, Evangelicalism has embraced and promoted those truths, after all, that’s why we’re called ‘Evangelicals’—because we love and proclaim the Gospel (Gk. evangelion). That is the Good News, that our God saves us! Salvation is all from God, from His loving and choosing us before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:3) to Christ’s return and our dwelling with God for all eternity (Rev. 21:3). From beginning to end we must acknowledge that God has done what we ourselves could not, and has saved us by His wonderful grace—not because we deserved it for we deserved the very opposite! I urge you to continue to study the doctrines of grace and (as the subtitle to Boice and Ryken’s book says) “rediscover the Evangelical Gospel.” May this be all for the glory of God as well as the good of those around us.
I pray that we will share this good news clearly and winsomely and that God would be gracious and bring those we love to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This Thanksgiving let’s be sure to give thanks for God and His grace.
Boice, James Montgomery and Phillip G. Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2002.