As we approach another Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to talk about the holiday in the context of our faith. Where once Thanksgiving was observed as a religious holiday complete with church services, today it has become almost completely secular, focusing entirely on food, family and football.

The first thanksgiving in 1621 celebrated a successful harvest after a difficult journey to the new world and a harsh winter. The Pilgrims invited members of the Wampanoag tribe to share in a three-day festival of food and recreation. According to the journal of Edward Winslow, “Although it be not always so plentiful, as it was this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

The word “thanksgiving” implies the giving of thanks to someone else. While some have tried to remove God by giving thanks to “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature,” it makes no sense to give thanks to an inanimate abstraction. If your grandparents give you the gift for your birthday, you thank them, not the Amazon supplier that delivered it.

In giving thanks to God, we typically think in terms of the material blessings we have received, as did Edward Winslow. Even though we so often take it for granted, there is no doubt that God has blessed us here in America beyond our imaginations. While much of the rest of the world lives in grinding poverty or stifling oppression, we enjoy the greatest standard of living in the history of the world. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Beyond our material blessings, we should also give thanks to God simply for who He is. It is God who created all things, including us. He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present, beyond our comprehension or understanding. “Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:1-6).

The ultimate thanks we owe God is for the love, grace and mercy He has shown us in Jesus. Even though we are disobedient sinners, God has brought healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and new life in the name of Christ. No matter what our earthly circumstances, we should be thankful that God in His mercy offers redemption in His Son. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

This coming week, enjoy the food, time with family and football. But also pause to give thanks to the One who has provided all this for us. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.

Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, bschultz27@gmail.com