It isn’t surprising that with each passing year the Christmas season becomes more and more secularized. It seems that in American culture, Christmas has been Christ-less for many years.
What concerns me this week is something that I think many believers haven’t considered: Thanksgiving is just as God-less as Christmas is Christ-less.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday almost universally celebrated by Americans. I watch the Cowboys play every year and the announcers will sometimes talk about the things for which they are thankful. What is striking is that I never hear anyone saying to whom they are thankful. It is as if thankfulness is an innate character trait without reference to anyone outside of self.
Lost is the image of God as the giver of all good things. Actually, lost is the image of God at all. In an increasingly atheistic culture, I have to wonder how long Thanksgiving will last. For those who do not believe in God, what basis is there for being thankful? Without a sovereign Creator, any good thing that I have is mine due solely to chance. Eventually, any notion of thankfulness should be replaced by the recognition of how fortunate I am. When that simple logic catches up to our godless society, don’t be surprised to see Thanksgiving Day replaced by Luckyfeeling Day.
I would love to see the Church as zealous to put God back into Thanksgiving as she has been to put Christ back into Christmas.
As I read Psalm 16 this morning, I saw in v2 a thankfulness that should be characteristic of every breath I take. I saw a heart that recognized the most fundamental blessing God has given to man – the most profound gift He has given to me: Himself.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Outside of God, I have no good thing. Though troubles befall me, though I lose everything, as long as I still have Him, I’ve lost nothing.
The writer understands that God Himself is his greatest blessing:
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
These verses contain words (portion, lot, lines, inheritance) that reference the parceling of the land to the different tribes of Israel when they came into Canaan. The writer expresses not merely a satisfaction with the land he received. Rather, he recognizes that the LORD is his beautiful inheritance. The LORD Himself is the blessing.
Vv7-8 show the Psalmist’s dependence upon the Lord and the safety of His presence:
7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel: in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
The writer intentionally fastens himself to the Lord. “…my heart instructs me” is a reference to meditation on the things of the Lord. “I have set the LORD always before me” indicates the purposeful setting of his attention on God.
I think if there is a lack of thankfulness to the Lord for the Lord, it is related to a failure to adopt this kind of intentionality in our devotional lives. The Lord rewards those who diligently seek Him. How does He reward them? By letting them find Him. Our communion with the Lord, and therefore our delight in the Lord, will be directly proportional to the fervor with which we pursue Him.
That delight is reflected in v9-11:
9 Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make me to know the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
In your presence there is fullness of joy… Only the heart that regards God as the greatest of all gifts can understand those words. And only the heart that pursues Him can regard Him as the greatest of all gifts.
The antidote to a God-less Thanksgiving is the cultivation of a heart that desires Him above all things. I challenge you this Thanksgiving to meditate on God as the giver of all good things and as the greatest of all good gifts. Let’s give thanks to God for the gift of Himself, so that Thanksgiving once again becomes a Christian holiday.