I heard my pastor speaking the other day about how the “national holiday” of Black Friday has continued to grow bigger and bigger every year, with shops opening earlier and earlier until some of them have now begun to open on the actual day of Thanksgiving. “Only in a America can you have a national holiday of greed and covetousness overtake a day of thanksgiving.” This isn’t true, of course. All peoples and nations are subject to the same vices. But it does seem typical of the America we have grown or shrunk to be. It hasn’t always been this way. As a matter of fact, America was the first nation in the modern world to sanction a day in the year just for giving thanks! So, what is happening to us? I think that the problem is two things: First, we are fat and rich and our character has gone soft. Secondly, we are not sure to whom we are giving thanks and without an object to receive our thanks and praise, or better yet, without a living being to receive our thanks and praise, it is impossible to be truly thankful.Thankfulness does not come from a people because they have received financial and material blessings.Thankfulness exists where personal character exists and where the recognition of grace-received exists. And Character has been proven to be better formed in adversity and persecution, rather than in the days of living on Easy Street. The Pilgrims knew about both adversity and persecution. Their reason for leaving England in the first place was to escape religious persecution. Their trip across the Atlantic Ocean was far from ideal including storms, sickness, abuse by the crew, and near death. Their arrival in the “new world” brought them a hard winter and many, many deaths. All this is what led up to the first American Thanksgiving day! Only people who are aware of what they have been saved from are truly thankful for their rescue. The pilgrims, after years of persecution and exile from their native country finally found a home that welcomed them when they met a tribe of friendly Native Americans who greeted them and helped them adjust to living in this new land. Though many pilgrims envisioned this new land to be the new Promised Land for them, the children of God, the first Thanksgiving was not a white imperialistic event. It was celebrated jointly by the Europeans and the Native Americans. This first Thanksgiving ought to make us reflect on the way that we celebrate Thanksgiving. What are we celebrating? What are we truly thankful for? And to whom or to what are we thankful? The pilgrims came to this new land with the hope that they could establish a Christian government that would not oppress its’ people. Was it realized? They wanted a place where they could have land and raise a family in peace and holiness. Did they get it? Was it worth the pain, the suffering and the turmoil of leaving your homeland, being stuck on a boat full of sick and dying people for weeks on end, and enduring the harshest of New England winters without any real provisions? The answer for the pilgrims must have been “yes.” They celebrated with Thanksgiving. But what about us? We live in the wake of the pilgrim’s pilgrimage and only a fool would say that we have reached or are near Utopia. What have we to be thankful for and what do we really want? Do we want what the pilgrims wanted? And if, after nearly 400 years, we have failed to realize their hopes for a Christian government, without oppression, should we still be thankful?
To an extent, I believe that the Pilgrim’s hopes were actually realized. We have had an amazing ride as a nation. We have experienced great prosperity along with, speaking generally, a fair amount of justice in our government. But we are far from Utopia and many feel that we are getting farther away rather than closer. Some still buy into the idea of progress, but one man or woman’s progress is another’s regress. So what do we have to be thankful for? Even Thanksgiving is a controversial subject. Main stream media would like Thanksgiving to be about thanking the gods, or good fortune or something like that. But generally, they don’t even go in for the thankfulness part, they just call it “Turkey Day”. If we accept this phraseology, then what we are really about to celebrate is National Day of Gluttony, followed by National Day Greed and Covetousness! Thankfulness is too controversial. The Israelites knew what they were to be thankful for; they were to be thankful for a God who made a covenant with them, to bring about His just rule and reign on the earth and to set His people free from oppression and to give them their own land to live in. What you are thankful for depends on your idea of what is good and right. What is considered “progress” in your kingdom? This is what the world ought to be celebrating this Thanksgiving: That God has made a covenant with His people, Israel, to bring about a just and good government in the earth so that men and women can live in peace on their own land and in harmony with their neighbors and that evil itself will be banished from God’s good creation and that this will be brought into reality through an anointed leader of Israel. God has been faithful to His promise, even though His people were unfaithful. God has anointed a man of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, to be Israel’s representative man to bring into reality the covenant that God had made with Israel, for the world. The pilgrims were right to believe that God had given them a “promised land” but they were wrong to think that it was America. The land promised to God’s people, God’s family, is the whole world (Romans 4:13). And the invitation to join this family of God goes out to all nations whether African, Jewish, Arab, Native American, German, Australian, etc. All are welcome to eat at God’s table. Homosexuals, lesbians, bigots, liars, murders, whores, adulterers, gluttons, money launderers, loan sharks, and all the rest are invited to come. There is only one requirement for sitting at this table. Give yourself over to the anointed leader who sits at the head of the table. He will heal you and deliver you from your sin. And then give Him thanks! He is in charge now. He will take care of us! That is what Thanksgiving is all about Charlie Brown.