As the name implies, Thanksgiving started as a time to give thanks to God for all He had blessed His people with, specifically the fall harvest of crops, and was therefore considered to be a “harvest festival”. The food that was typically eaten was food that would have been harvested at or by that time of year. For Americans that would mean things like sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and of course the turkey which would have been born in the spring and large enough to feed a whole family by the fall. It was a time of rest, as all the work in the fields was done, and the bounty could be enjoyed. But the roots of this holiday go even deeper.
The Jewish fall harvest festival, Sukkot—Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths—was a time when our ancestors not only celebrated their agricultural harvest, but also a time when they remembered the humble means of survival their ancestors endured while wandering the desert for 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt. To this day many Jewish people observe the Feast by building booths in their homes, as replicas of the bamboo style huts the ancient Israelites lived in while wandering the desert. It is a time to give thanks for abundant provisions, but also a time to humble themselves before the Lord, giving thanks for even the most meager means of survival. Because even those humble booths were provisions from God. Instead of decorating their tables with the finest china and linens, exalting themselves and all they have, they humble themselves; eating, and sometimes even sleeping inside these booths. In doing this they honor God for ALL that He gives, whether it be a tree branch to provide shelter from the sun, or a sprawling abode large enough to accommodate an entire family in wealth and abundance. I am in no way implying that we should all go build booths in our homes this week, or mirror this Jewish ritual. But the message of humble thanks is one we can take with us. God’s love is abundant, life in Christ is abundant, no matter what our worldly means are.
So here is my mission for this focused time of Thanksgiving: 1) to not get lost in the tradition, the heritage, or the expectations of the season, 2) to be ever mindful of, and offer thanks for all that God has blessed me with, 3) to humble myself before the Lord, thanking Him for even the least of my blessings, which often take the shape of trials and tribulations, 4) to offer my loved ones the best of what I have to give, the best of my spiritual harvest from above. Humble...thanks...giving.
This Thanksgiving, as we gather together with family and friends, and enjoy the feast set before us, let us not forget to“rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in EVERYTHING give thanks; for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Let us pray without ceasing for those less fortunate, that the Lord will “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. [That] they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3)
Let us carry with us the spirit of humble thanksgiving all the year long!