What Happened to Thanksgiving?

Is it just my imagination, or do the Christmas decorations come out earlier and earlier every year? This year, almost a month before Halloween, I noticed some of the “big box” stores and shopping malls cranking up their Christmas promotions. It made me ask, “What happened to Thanksgiving?”  Although I saw a few Thanksgiving sales, the big push seems to be for Christmas and Santa.  We are bombarded with Christmas ads for everything from cars to cruises.  In some ways, it appears that a commercialized Christmas “Grinch” is stealing Thanksgiving!

While Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily any more biblical than Christmas, both have become treasured holidays. While Christmas is celebrated all over the world, Thanksgiving is uniquely American. With religious and historical roots dating back to the early colonists in Plymouth, Massachusetts, this celebration has symbolized and served as a reminder to Americans everywhere of our dependence upon God’s grace and mercy.

Almost every U.S President since George Washington made special declarations regarding a national day for giving thanks to God. Perhaps the most memorable declaration from a United States President was made by Lincoln during the Civil War.  In 1863, in the middle of our nation’s darkest hour, he declared a National Day of Thanksgiving, for the purpose of giving thanks for the “the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

In1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law, the bill that made the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday. Thanksgiving is certainly a part of our heritage and tradition as Americans, but is it a part of our heart, our soul, and our being?  Is it possible one of the reasons we allow a consumer-fed, commercialized Christmas to crowd out Thanksgiving, is that we are no longer a grateful nation? Have we forgotten all Christ has done for us?

For the follower of Christ, Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday! It is a day to be grateful for the many blessings we have as people of God, and as a nation. However, our gratitude to God isn’t just a one day event. It should drive and define us every day as His people. It is an attitude of our hearts, and it reveals itself in the depth of our spiritual dependence on God. Most importantly, our gratitude to God is the heart of true worship.

On one occasion, Jesus healed ten lepers.  Of the ten, only one returned to give thanks, and worship God for what he had experienced.  Jesus asked the one who returned, “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:12).

What’s happening to Thanksgiving where you live? Is it getting pushed aside for the man in the red suit, and the almighty dollar, or is it being observed as a day to count your blessings, and give thanks to God who gives so much, and blesses us far more than we ever deserve?

This Thanksgiving Day remember:  “And in that day you will say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name.  Make known His deeds among the peoples; make them remember that His name is exalted.'”  Isa. 12:4  (NASB)

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About Larry Doyle

Dr. Larry S. Doyle is the Director of Missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association He has served as Director of Missions since September 1, 2003. His ministry began in the pastorate in Kentucky, his native state. He served as pastor of three churches while completing his undergraduate, graduate and post graduate degrees. He and his wife Becky, a native of Greensboro, served as IMB/SBC missionaries in Ecuador from 1980 to 1992. He then came to the Triad to pastor the Hispanic Baptist Church in Kernersville, NC from 1992 to 2000. He and his wife served as the On-site Coordinator for Disaster Relief in Honduras from January 2000 to January 2001. Dr. Doyle was the International Ministries Director for the Baptist Metrolina Ministries in Charlotte, NC from 2001 to 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University, and received a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Larry and Becky have two sons, Steve and Tim, and are the proud grandparents of three. They attend Calvary Baptist Church in McLeansville.
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