telephone, the electric guitar or even the Twinkie.
The holiday has transcended its Puritan Christian origins, and evolved into a time for people of all religious stripes (including none-of-the-above) to slow down for a weekend (or at least a few hours), gather together with family and friends to count our blessing and celebrate all that we’re thankful for. We feast to say thanks for what we have and are – whether it’s a little or a lot, and whether we think we earned it all ourselves or we see all of our blessings as gifts from God.
Thanksgiving in 2011 is a truly universal holiday. It hasn’t been diluted or corrupted or polluted by political correctness, because it hasn’t needed to be; it’s evolved naturally to mean something a little different to North American Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Agnostics and Atheists (sorry if I missed anybody). We may not agree about much, but we can all agree that gratitude is appropriate.
But having spent most of my life on the secular side of the fence, I can tell you that giving thanks to a nebulous, ill-defined ‘universe’ is like watching a black and white 12-inch TV, compared with the full-color, 65-inch plasma 3D hi-def experience of knowing, personally, the author of your blessings. Not only do I get to say ‘Thank you,’ I get to hear Him reply, ‘My pleasure.’ That, in itself, is a gift worthy of giving thanks for – and in that way, Thanksgiving is a gift that keeps on giving!
My old self would say what I was thankful for, and simply ‘not go there’ on the question of whom I was thankful to. And when I look back, the experience was pretty hollow.
But was it hollow for God?
Or did He watch and listen lovingly as I listed off all the things I was thankful for – my job, my family, my friends, my talents and my stuff – and in spite of the fact I didn’t mention or acknowledge Him, reply, ‘My pleasure’? Maybe His response was always the same, but I simply didn’t have ears to hear.
Is it possible that any participation in the Thanksgiving holiday is a spiritual act? That when we say what we’re thankful for, the elephant in the room (whom we’re thankful to) is implied – whether we acknowledge it or not? Is it possible that God cuts through our unbelief and our pretense of thanking the potatoes for the potatoes, and meets us where we are? That even though our expressions of thanks (including those offered by full-fledged Jesus Freaks) are inadequate, He loves and cherishes us anyway and redeems our half-baked, half-hearted thanks and receives them for what they should be – and then showers us with the blessing of telling us how much he enjoys blessing us?
If I’m right, you may have been worshipping the Risen Christ without knowing it. I dare you to try doing it deliberately sometime soon and see what happens.
Thanksgiving is a man-made, pan-faith holiday that could mean 336 million different things to a 336 million North Americans, but maybe what it means to God remains constant – whether we know it or not. And perhaps all we have to do to experience the occasion His way is to ask Him.
Peace be with you.