It seems like summer just ended, but even here in southwest Texas – even if for only a few days – Fall is in the air. As November arrives with a few days of cooler weather, students — not to mention faculty and staff — are beginning to look toward the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are not far away.
Thanksgiving is a Universal Concept
I always think of the specifically American roots of Thanksgiving, but the fact is, Thanksgiving is the kind of festival that is celebrated the world over — though in different ways of course.
It is usually associated with fall harvest festivals, when people gather with family and friends at the end of an intensive season of harvesting, to give God thanks for his blessings and provisions. It’s closely connected with family, friends, relaxation and rest, plus great food. And, of course, these celebrations often include prayers and worship as we reflect upon God‘s blessings in the previous year.
I love the fact that we set aside a specific few days of the year for Thanksgiving parties, meals, festivals, and time off from school and work. It’s wonderful to have a spot in the calendar that reminds us of our dependence upon the Lord and the importance of expressing collectively as families and as his people our gratitude to him.
Harvest Festivals in Scripture
The Jewish people actually had two harvest festivals, one in the spring, associated with small grains and the “first fruits” of the harvest, and one in the Fall, where the Lord was thanked for the end of the larger harvest season. Setting aside special times for worship, reflection, celebration, and the giving of thanks is always appropriate.
Give Thanks Continually
And, of course, we all know that, while Thanksgiving is a special time of the year, the giving of thanks is and ought to be a regular process and a never ending habit.
The daily, regular practice of giving thanks in all circumstances is something that the Scriptures emphasize. For example:
“…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” Ephesians 5:20
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:15-17
In the New Testament, “time” has undergone a dramatic change, since the great day of fulfillment has come with the person of Christ. Therefore the last great Sabbath, the year of Jubilee, has arrived (Luke 4:16-21), and the calendar takes on new meaning. Every day is a day for giving thanks, and that’s the new, daily festival emphasized in the New Testament.
The Failure to Give Thanks
In fact, in Romans 1:18-21, the failure of humanity to give thanks is pointed to as the beginning of the Great Rebellion recounted in Genesis 3. The refusal to give thanks is a refusal to worship God as God, and it led the human race to a mental and spiritual darkness, a corruption of their full humanity.
So, while Fall is in the air, and we are now looking forward to the holiday season, every day, even now, is a time for thanksgiving. We don’t thank God for the evil that happens all too frequently in our world, but even in the midst of suffering, evil, and difficult times, we can thank God in all circumstances. Giving thanks is an act of submission and faith that leads us into the presence of God.
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Edited by Joannah Buffington