How to Celebrate Thanksgiving the Biblical Way
Thanksgiving Then and Now
Millions of Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving since that first Thanksgiving in 1621 when the Pilgrims and the Puritans started it in Virginia (the state where this writer lives). The feast back then was nothing like the modern-day feast. However, the purpose is the same. The Pilgrims and the Puritans set aside a holy day to thank God for their good harvest that helped them get through the previous winter.
It might not surprise anyone that what we eat today was not on the menu for that first Thanksgiving feast. The people who celebrated then wouldn't recognize modern-day Thanksgiving traditions because they are so different.
The Thanksgiving celebration today doesn't seem to have its original religious significance. Everything today is centered around the Thanksgiving meal. There is also a Thanksgiving parade that the pilgrims didn't have.
The foods that are put on tables in American homes today are different from the foods served at the first Thanksgiving celebration that lasted three days. Nearly 90 percent of the people in the United States eat turkey on Thanksgiving Day, but it may or may not have been the meat eaten back in 1621. More than likely it was venison.
Even though the first Thanksgiving celebration was different from the celebration enjoyed by most Americans today, the celebrations have been based on some of the same principles.
Theme of Thanksgiving in the Bible
The theme of thanks is seen throughout the Bible in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The Psalms are especially full of praises to God and thanks for His grace, mercy, compassion, and love. Psalm 100:4 says,
"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
The last section comprised of Psalm 146-150 is known as the "Hallelujah Psalms" that contain praises to God. Psalm 150 carries the theme of thanksgiving in its entirety.
Thanksgiving is also a theme in the New Testament. There are many instances when Jesus offered thanks to God His Father. He regularly excused Himself from the crowds to get away to be alone with His Father to pray and to give Him thanks.
Jesus thanked God for the meager meal of fish and loaves that turned out to be more than enough to feed five thousand men besides women and children and had twelve baskets of fragments left behind for the disciples to pick up (Matthew 14:13-21).
Jesus thanked God when He broke bread and served it to His disciples along with wine during the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-27). Jesus prayed and thanked God in John 17 first for Himself, then for His disciples, and lastly for us.
Jesus was not the only one who gave thanks in the New Testament. Paul lived a lifestyle of giving thanks and praising God. There were also Peter, James, John, Silas, the women who followed Jesus, and many others.
Celebrate Thanksgiving in Biblical Ways
When you gather with family and friends this year, try celebrating Thanksgiving in biblical ways. Take time to thank God for what He has allowed you to have during the year. Thank Him without requesting anything new on that holy day. Look back and thank God for what He has already given you just as the Pilgrims and Puritans thanked God for their harvest.
God is the same God who enabled them to survive during the winter months. If God does not give us another thing, perhaps all of us will agree that He has already given us enough to be very thankful.
Make thanksgiving a prominent theme in your own life just as it is a theme throughout the Bible. When you are truthfully thankful, you will acknowledge God in everything that happens to and through you in genuine gratitude without having an ulterior motive.
It is easy to thank God for what He has done for you, but Thanksgiving should not be a selfish holy day or holiday. You should include others in your Thanksgiving prayer. The right thing to do is to thank God for your family, friends, and other people and things God has allowed to be in your life.
If you get into the habit of being thankful on the last Thursday in November every year, your gratitude will more than likely continue on other days as well. Make it a habit of showing thanks to God Almighty on a regular basis.