Christmas warms the heart, fills the eyes with twinkling lights, and sets our mouths salivating. It is the time of year simultaneously pointed to as the most philanthropic and self-centered; spiritual and shallow day of the year.
Thanksgiving by comparison seems a bump in the road which leads to the Christmas castle. Would smoothing that bump from the road enhance the Christmas parade? Should Thanksgiving be eliminated? Is a day set aside to remember God’s blessing and provision during the hardest times in life really necessary? What is gained other than a deep sleep induced by Tryptophan, mountains of carbohydrates, and rivers of sugar? Is Thanksgiving just the opening act to the main waist expansion and extra pound extravaganza known as Christmas?
Luke seventeen records the plea of ten lepers for Jesus to heal them. He told them to go show themselves to the priests, the only ones authorized to pronounce them healed and consequently able to reintegrate them into the lives of their families, friends, and normal social life. On the way they were cleansed of that dreaded skin disease. Only one found Jesus to thank him. Jesus told him his faith healed him. The implication is his thankfulness led to not only physical healing but spiritual restoration as well. I wonder if the lack of thanksgiving encourages past trouble to relocate us.
The Jesus follower, Luke, tells another story in the fifth chapter of his book. Some fishermen were cleaning their nets after a night of fruitless fishing. These professional experienced fishermen had come up empty. Jesus, a carpenter not a fisherman, sat down in Simon’s boat. After teaching a large gathering of people Jesus told Simon where to fish. Humoring this amateur Simon let down his nets as instructed. The boat nearly capsized from the ensuing enormous catch of fish leading Simon to land and fall at the feet of Jesus. More than acknowledging the miracle catch, Simon, later called Peter knew he had done nothing to deserve this financial bonanza. Gratitude was one part of Peter’s falling on his knees before Jesus.
Fishermen were not the only ones Jesus astonished. The most educated priests and the most revered rulers alike nodded their heads in astonishment. Jesus is not impressed by the experience and skills laid out in our resumes. As Paul said, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Humility in accessing our ability and the demonstration of gratitude are important foundation stones to build life upon.
Stan Guthrie in his essay “I’m Not as Special as I Used to Think” said, “Our gifts — which come from God’s gracious hand and enable us to provide for our needs, serve others, and point to the kingdom—are only loaned to us”. Recognizing these talents and the results they bring should lead to thanksgiving then, not pride. In the midst of giving recognizing where the ability to give came from should result in spontaneous praise and thanksgiving to our Creator and Savior.
Thanksgiving will never garner the level of excitement Christmas does. Skipping Thanksgiving, however, will leave us, like the lepers, less than whole.