As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday this week we hear many voices calling us to “be thankful” and to “count our blessings.” But it seems a bit awkward for those who wish to make Thanksgiving into a secular holiday. Exactly whom are they thanking? What is the source of our “blessings?” We do not give thanks to inanimate objects. When I drive to my office I do not thank my car for getting me there safely and reliably. When it rains I do not thank the clouds for caring for me. The giving of thanks only makes sense in context of a personal relationship. We can only properly thank a personal being who has acted on our behalf. Being thankful “in general” doesn’t work very well.
At the first Thanksgiving in 1621 they didn’t have this problem. They came seeking religious freedom and a place to establish a community founded on biblical principles. After arriving at Cape Cod on November 11, 1620, they faced a harsh winter in which nearly half of their group died. Yet in the Spring when the Mayflower returned to England not a single one of them chose to return. They tenaciously clung to their faith and in the Fall of 1621 celebrated a feast to thank God for His blessings.
To be honest, I sometimes find it irritating to hear people spouting pious platitudes about being “thankful” without acknowledging God’s place in their lives. Thanksgiving isn’t about a vague feeling of thankfulness—it is about giving thanks and praise to our gracious heavenly Father and sovereign Lord.