Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Is Thanksgiving a particularly American holiday? Even though the word evokes images of football, family reunions, pumpkin pie and, of course, the Pilgrims, the question is this: Is it always so?
Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts should always be an important a part of our daily life.
From ancient times, native peoples of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early Spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child. Giving thanks was, and still is, the primary reason for ceremonies or celebrations.
Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has officially been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863, when during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.
What does Thanksgiving mean to you? What comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? Do you picture a time of thankfulness toward God—or is it merely one of eating, partying, or watching football?
Although not directly mentioned in Scripture, Thanksgiving Day is a holiday specifically based on biblical principles and commands. It is to be a day to spend with family and friends, honoring and thanking God for the abundant blessings he provides.
Psalm 116:17 states, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” In Psalm 50:13–14, God clearly explains that he has no need of “the flesh of bulls, or the blood of goats” that would be offered in a sacrifice. Instead, he wants us to offer him sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise!
David understood this, and even appointed certain Levite priests the specific duty of thanking and praising God (1 Chronicles 16:4). Chapter 23 of 1 Chronicles further explains the Levites’ duties. Verse 30 states that they were to “to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening.”
Today, God wants—and expects—from us these same sacrifices of thanksgiving through our actions and prayers. We read of this in Ephesians 5:20, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul further explains, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
To most nations, the concept of celebrating Thanksgiving Day is viewed as a holiday that is meaningful for North Americans, although certain other nations have similar harvest festivals. However, the act of thanksgiving toward God should be done everywhere—everyday—by everyone! It is not just an American holiday; neither should it be limited to one day a year.
All of us will always have enough reasons to be thankful to our God for his continued mercies in our lives. He has always and continues to show us his mercies every day of our lives. Lamentations 3:23 says, “They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Therefore, each day provides new reasons to say, “Thank you, God, for your grace, which is more than enough for each new day.”
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, ponder and consider the many wonderful blessings you enjoy. Be grateful for these wonderful benefits. Realize that these material and spiritual blessings were not given to us because of anything we have done—we do not deserve them. God has bestowed them on us simply because of his mercy.
Whether you define yourself as American, Chinese, Dominican, or any other nationality, Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to glorify God for his love to us through Jesus Christ!
Luis Méndez, Elder
Pastoral Director, Hispanic Ministries