Thanksgiving faces an unprecedented amount of competition. Early signs of this appear as Halloween and Christmas are simultaneously advertised in September, making Thanksgiving seem like merely a traditional transition into the holiday season. In addition to all of the holiday anticipation, there are actually many things that happen on Thanksgiving Day that compete with its intended purpose of giving thanks. And it seems like some of these tendencies are indicators of things that we must battle against the rest of the year: discontentment, distraction, complaining, and carelessness.
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In order to learn how we might “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), below are four things we can do to focus on being thankful throughout the year, but especially on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving has quickly turned into thanksgetting. Instead of giving thanks for what we have, we focus on getting the things we don’t need. Our attention can quickly switch to a search through the endless Black Friday ads as we compile our Christmas wish lists. And the retailers know it, which is why they’re opening earlier each year, forcing families to choose between dinner or doorbusters. There is nothing inherently wrong with holiday shopping; we can even justify the madness because we’re shopping for others. However, we must remember that consumerism kills gratefulness, and that true thanksgiving is shown through contentment. Don’t let thankfulness for things you already have turn into a thirst for things that you probably don’t really need. Instead, let thankfulness help you learn the secret of contentment (Philippians 4:11-13). As you remain content with what you have, others will see that “godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6) is greater gain than the best doorbuster deal.
Unwind and Unplug
Instead of spending time together with family or friends to give thanks, many people get distracted by all of the holiday festivities. Between the Macy’s parade, NFL football, tryptophan-induced naps, Black Friday extravaganzas, or technological seclusion, many spend a lot of time not giving thanks. That’s what makes Thanksgiving dinners so nice, because it causes many people and families to actually come together for a purpose. Be intentional and actually have meaningful conversations with your friends and family. Yes, this means that you actually have to put down your devices and talk to someone in person! Go ahead and take a picture or post a status of what you’re thankful for on social media, but let’s not say that we’re thankful for the people we spend Thanksgiving with, and then ignore them the entire time while we stare at a screen. And ultimately, let’s not get so busy or so distracted that we neglect to thank the One who deserves all praise.
In comparison to any other day, did you know that there are three times as many house fires on Thanksgiving due to unattended cooking? The same can be true of other “fires” in the home that need to be extinguished. Relational problems, unresolved drama, and dinner table disputes can easily be multiplied as we complain about how things are rather than how they could or should be; we focus on what we don’t have, rather than enjoying what we do have. If there’s one thing that destroys gratitude, it’s complaining. However, Thanksgiving presents a great opportunity to fight against complaining by considering others as more important than ourselves, which will shine the light of the gospel and show the character of Christ (Philippians 2:1-16).
We’ve grown accustomed to automatically—and sometimes thoughtlessly—say “thank you” as a general response. But during Thanksgiving, we should be intentional and specific about what we’re thankful for. It may have been a long time ago, but it might be a good idea to bring back the handprint turkey craft and specifically identify at least five things we’re thankful for. Let’s not just say who or what we’re thankful for, but why we are thankful. And ultimately, let’s consider all the ways in which we are to be thankful to the Lord. Make a list, have some quiet time, or pray it out loud; do whatever it takes, so that you can say, like David, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).
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Ironically, it can be hard to be thankful on Thanksgiving. As you prepare for all of this year’s holiday festivities, let Thanksgiving turn into thanksliving. Consider how this day, which is intentionally set apart for thankfulness, can shape an attitude of gratitude for the entire year.