November and Thanksgiving – a wonderful time of the year! There is excitement in the air, people are happy and eager as preparations are made to feast on savory food, laugh, and make new memories with family and friends. It is fun to hear the anticipation in voices of people as they share family traditions, menus, and travel plans. I enjoy asking people what they do for Thanksgiving and marvel at the different responses as they openly share the changes and challenges in their family be it the result of birth, death, or a change of venue for their gathering. Most of the time people share their feelings of joy, sorrow, and even the stress involved with Thanksgiving, but ultimately, they all look forward to what this day will bring. One lady told me rather jubilantly, “My plan is to stay in my pajamas all day.” She went on to say she doesn’t make much of holidays because they are just another day for her. I thought that was… well… a little sad, but it definitely got me thinking about holidays and their purpose because certainly we celebrate for a reason right?
Holidays give us opportunity to gather with loved ones to “remember”. As Christians, our primary focus for any holiday is to remember God and His-story! Whether we are celebrating the traditional Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter or the secular ones such as New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or Thanksgiving, as Christians, we honor God on these days which are “set apart”. On these days we thank and honor God for the birth, death, and resurrection of His Son, new beginnings, love, our armed forces and those who have died to protect us, our mothers and fathers, our freedom, the privilege of laboring, and for the abundance we enjoy in America!
If we treat every holiday as though it is just another day we miss the “pause” in life in which we take time to remember and celebrate what great things God has done. Just as He told the Israelites to gather and share stories of His greatness so they would remember, we must continue to meet with loved ones to share stories from the past so we do not forget. God talks about remembering over one hundred and sixty times in His Word so obviously it is important for us to take time to “remember”! In Deuteronomy 32:7 we read “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.” 1 Chronicles 16:12 “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.”
Sure – we could get together other times to remember but do we? Holidays give the perfect avenue to do just that! The consequences of not making “remembering” a priority is that we forget! Judges 8:34 “Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.” If we forget where we have come we really have no clue where we are going or Who is leading us! The result of not remembering is that when change comes we have no barometer from which to gauge what is occurring in our lives. Change is imminent therefore “remembering” and sharing allows our children and grandchildren to track changes by identifying with the past, living in the present, and staying faithful for the future.
When our family gathers for Thanksgiving I experience a memory explosion starting with my treasured childhood ones moving through the years. When I was in college I played basketball so we returned the day after Thanksgiving which was always the worst practice of the year because after gorging ourselves on Thursday, it was pure agony to run and jump on Friday. Feasting on Thursday led right into a forced fast on Friday, a most unpleasant memory to be sure. I cherish the memories of our first two Thanksgivings before starting a family when we were far from home and learned to be thankful for little. Once we started having children the Thanksgivings have seemed to fly by. We had our first child two weeks before our third Thanksgiving together and our last child one week before our fourteenth Thanksgiving. So many great memories of Thanksgiving “pasts”! And the saga continues as our family has doubled in just the past three years alone. Change? It happens! Remembering? We must make it happen!
Traditionally, most Christians take the opportunity at Thanksgiving to thank God FOR all the things He has so generously done and blessed us with. We take time to recount and share our thankfulness for life, family, babies, food, shelter, friends, jobs, and the list goes on. But a thought came to me this Thanksgiving season – along with all the changes that happen and with all the remembering we do wouldn’t it be great to spend more time just thanking God for God? Romans 1:21 says “..because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” This is an amazing yet devastating chapter of Scripture I would urge you to read as it details the consequences of knowing God but not glorifying Him as God nor being thankful.
There is a precious truth in here we do not want to miss – we need to glorify God as God! The “they” this verse speaks of were people who lived unrighteous and ungodly lives even though they knew God. This can describe us as well! Verse 20 reveals that from the very creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen and understood by the things that are made! They knew God – and we do too! But they did not glorify Him as God – do we? The point is we can think we are glorifying Him but if we have exchanged the glory of our amazing incorruptible God for an image made like ourselves, corruptible, He gives us over to our uncleanness. God wants to be glorified as God, not for what we have made Him or perceive Him to be. We should be thankful for Him, not just for all that He does for us. By glorifying Him as God and being thankful we will not exchange His truth for a lie.
What if this Thanksgiving we choose not just to remember all the great things God has done but choose to remember Him? What if we choose not just to embrace the goodness of God but choose to embrace Him this Thanksgiving? Will it be enough to just thank God for God? Will we approach the day differently? If we choose to remember Him instead of all He has done, would we be done remembering in ten seconds, ten minutes, or could we go on for hours simply remembering God? Perhaps we think it is one in the same but it is easy to be thankful for all God has done and given us, but not so easy to focus and be passionate about God simply for Who He is!
Yet I can look at my husband of almost 29 years and I don’t need words to be thankful for him. When I think of thanking him for being my husband, sure…I could list off a thousand things I am thankful for but it boils down to one thing…I am thankful for him. Period! I can sit for long periods of time and meditate on his beauty (okay, handsomeness), his strength, love, and other attributes. Though I could thank him for all the things he has done for me (I suppose he would appreciate that too) I know that thanking him for being himself is far more meaningful than what he does.
I can also sit and ponder the excellence in my children and grandchildren. They all amaze me! But again, though I appreciate all they do, I am most thankful for who they are! I can say the same of my incredible friends. They do so many things to enrich my life, but when I stop to ponder what I am thankful for in them, I am most grateful they are who they are! If I can do this with my husband, children, grandchildren, and friends, should I not do this even more with my Jesus?
Because we know God, let’s spend this Thanksgiving glorifying God for God and being thankful for Him. This may take a little effort since it is natural to thank God for all He has done and all He provides for us. But take time to give Him glory just for being God and then spend your time delighting and feasting in Him. Let us not go through this Thanksgiving with our only goal to stay in our pajamas for the day, or to eat as much as possible without getting sick, or just to be thankful for all the “stuff”. Let us spend time remembering, refusing to forget, embracing change, but completely focused on the beauty of the Lord! And most importantly, when you go through your mental list of all you are thankful for, be thankful that God is God! Then glorify Him as God!