In a couple of weeks, the arguments will begin again about keeping Christ in Christmas. Whether or not this is an argument you care about, I encourage you to consider keeping Christ in Thanksgiving. I believe Thanksgiving is an incurably religious holiday. Realizing this and practicing this may hold a key to expanding our joy, as well as our waistlines, together.
Every decision make, every action we take says something about who we are and what we know to be true. Conside what it is we're saying, what it is we're confessing when we gather for Thanksgiving tomorrow, when we feast and toast, when we hold hands and give thanks.
Thanksgiving is a confession that God is real. It is one thing to have a general sense of gratitude but quite another to give thanks. To do thanksgiving, we have to give thanks. We have to package it up and send it somewhere, to someone beyond and above ourselves who is responsible for the all these good things. By gathering together to give thanks, we are saying together that God is real and true. Because, without a real God, Thanksgiving could never fulfill its name. To put an even finer point on it, an atheistic Thanksgiving is a logical impossibility.
Thanksgiving is also a confession of God's goodness. By giving thanks not only do we recognize the existence of God, we also necessarily recognize that this God is good. The Bible teaches us that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).
Yet now, as divisions in our nation and our families deepen, some of those gifts we've enjoyed may be disappearing. How do we give thanks under gray skies? How do we give thanks when our bodies are failing and our anxieties deepening? If we consider Christ, we look upon a gift that a market economy cannot touch. By looking to Jesus, we see a gift no illness or fight can take away. Keeping Christ in Thanksgiving means giving thanks for God's greatest gift: Himself.
Maybe this point is the hardest. To give thanks is to, necessarily, confess that this real and good God is in control. If He is not in control of this world, there is no point in giving thanks for the people and things He may or may not have given. Certainly this is a hard truth to contend with--if God is in control, why is there evil? Why war? Why poverty? These are valid and hard questions. We can either avoid them, focusing only on the nice things, or we can answer them by keeping Jesus in Thanksgiving. By doing so, we see how the gift of Jesus' death, certainly the greatest evil ever committed was used for good, bringing salvation to humanity.
Before the "meaning of Christmas" arguments sprout, I hope you will consider the meaning of Thanksgiving. And as you give thanks this year, may you realize that the object of your Thanksgiving is truly worthy of your praise.
This post was originally published as a letter to the editor in 2008 in the Lafayette Journal & Courier.