The Greater Meaning of Thanksgiving

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It is that time of year when the weather tells us we are in transition from fall to winter. It begins to get colder outside and the trees lose their beautiful leaves. Many of us are now preparing to spend more time inside our homes in the days ahead. We have just experienced Halloween and are not quite ready to jump into the Christmas holiday. We are ready to experience the Thanksgiving holiday.

If you look at the literal meaning of Thanksgiving as stated by Oxford Dictionaries, the noun Thanksgiving has two definitions. The first definition is the expression of gratitude, especially to God. The second definition notes that Thanksgiving is an annual holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 and is held in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November.

Growing up in West Virginia, I can close my eyes and smell a loving house filled with the aroma of a Thanksgiving meal. I would go outside and play football with my friends and come back to watch the Macy’s Day Parade on television. I knew at the end of the parade when I saw Santa Claus the meal was almost ready to be eaten and Christmas was not far away. I so enjoyed the laughter and love of my late parents and my sisters at the Thanksgiving table. We always had additional relatives or friends for dinner. Following the meal, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions would have their usual Thanksgiving Day football game on television. It was a day to reflect and give thanks.

As I age, the term thanksgiving has deeper roots and a greater meaning. There have been many things written about the Power of Thanksgiving.

The writer John Henry Jowett wrote: “Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic. This is the most searching and true diagnosis. Gratitude can be a vaccine that can prevent the invasion of a disgruntled attitude. As antitoxins prevent the disastrous effects of certain poisons and diseases, thanksgiving destroys the poison of fault-finding and grumbling. When trouble has smitten us, a spirit of thanksgiving is a soothing antiseptic.”

Sir John Templeton also wrote of this: “How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child’s personality. A child is resentful, negative, or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, and they draw people.”

According to Psalm 28:2: “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

According to Psalm 50:23: “He who brings an offering of praise and thanksgiving honors and glorifies me; and he who orders his way aright (who prepares the way that I may show him), to him I will demonstrate the salvation of God.”

Psalm 69:30 says: “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”

As Christians we have a responsibility to teach humility and thanksgiving to others. We are blessed to have the ability to enjoy life. It’s not about how much we have in material things. We are abundant in spiritual things. I pray each day for good health, length of days, for those that suffer in this world and for me to have the ability to live a Christian life. I am a sinner and ask for forgiveness.

As chairman of my parish council I try to promote servant leadership. Thanksgiving is not a one-day holiday. We should give thanks each day for the fact we are alive. It is up to all of us to promote the spirit of Thanksgiving with others. Use this day and season to offer praise, worship and thankfulness to God. Plant seeds of goodness in those you touch. The seeds will germinate and spread to many, most of whom you will never know.

As noted in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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