Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Thanksgiving Day: it actually has nothing to do with the Christian liturgical year, but is clearly the closest a secular holiday comes to being religious. Its roots are in the religious convictions of our forebears—our American forebears. And because the holiday is American, it is inclusive of all Americans regardless of faith convictions, or lack thereof.
Thanksgiving Day is not like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July—holidays that have to do with specific dates commemorating specific events. Thanksgiving Day is THE day Americans have set aside for the express purpose of giving thanks. Of course, people have had such days since the beginning of time. Consider Psalm 100, a song used when the community offered a burnt offering to God. Following the ceremony the burnt offering was consumed by the worshippers. Sounds a little bit like Thanksgiving dinner when we offer copious amounts of food that are consumed by those gathered for the purpose of giving thanks. Food has always been a rallying point for giving thanks to God.
Because Thanksgiving Day is the American celebration of thanks, it’s helpful to name our faith-filled reasons for thanks. The first great motivator for thanksgiving is to acknowledge that God is the creator and preserver of all that we love and cherish in the world: “Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” The second great motivator for thanksgiving, the reason that we are able to give thanks at all, is because God has been true to us throughout all history. God’s continuous love and recurring fidelity in the face of our infidelity insures for us that we will always have a need to give thanks: “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
We all know the American version of Thanksgiving, the gathering of the pilgrims with their newfound friends who showed them how to survive in this wilderness and offered them refuge from the harshness of this land. That is why we pause this week to spend time with family and friends. At the same time, we acknowledge a God who enables us to survive in the wilderness of life and who offers refuge from the harshness of this world. Thanks be to God.