Skip to content

Thanksgiving

From The Briefing:

On Tuesday evening, our mid-week church group enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner together. The Thanksgiving dinner has been a group tradition for a number of years now, although this is the first time our family has been part of it (we joined the group in January). It was a great time of fellowship and fun. We had a couple of real live Americans and a Canadian present, and I’m pleased to say that the dinner—complete with turkey, stuffing, corn bread, mashed potato, pumpkin pie and other tasty & filling dishes cooked by group members—received thumbs-up for authenticity!

Where did Thanksgiving come from? Many point to the “first” American Thanksgiving in 1621, a spontaneous outdoor celebration by the early New England settlers (the “pilgrims”) together with native Americans, prompted by a particularly plentiful harvest. Others point out that the tradition of holding a harvest celebration of this kind dates from long before European settlement of the Americas. Indeed, holding a harvest festival is a long-established English tradition; in England, the annual harvest festival is often linked with a church service in which prayers and thanks are offered to God for sustaining his people into a new year.

When I ask any of my American friends what thanksgiving is all about, I’m usually told it’s a time for seeing family, eating food until your stomach hurts, watching football, and just generally “giving thanks”. But this prompts more questions: giving thanks for what? And to whom? For many, the term “thanksgiving” just means being positive about the good things in life. For Christians, however, the term takes on a much richer dimension. The concept of “thanksgiving,” after all, implies more than an internal attitude. It’s a relational concept—it’s about positively expressing gratefulness to another person for the fact that they have been good to us and blessed us in some way. Christians know that all good things come from God the Father himself, and so we give thanks to him. The Bible is full of expressions of thanksgiving to God. The Psalmists are constantly giving thanks. Jesus gives thanks for food and drink at the feeding of the 4,000 and the last supper (Matt 15:36, Luke 22:17-19). Jesus also thanks God for hearing his prayer to raise Lazarus from the dead, a sign that all those who trust in Jesus will receive everlasting resurrection life (John 11:41). The apostle Paul frequently gives thanks and urges others to do so: both for physical blessings (e.g. Rom 14:6, 1 Tim 4:3-4), and also for the amazing spiritual blessings that God has given us in Jesus through his Spirit—inheritance, forgiveness, eternal life (e.g. Col 1:12). Paul is especially thankful for his fellow believers, praising God for the way that they have responded to the gospel in faith, hope and love (e.g. Rom 1:8, 1 Cor 1:4, etc.). Our prayers are to be full of thanksgiving (e.g. Col 4:2); thanksgiving is in fact supposed to be our default mode of conversation (Eph 5:4).

So I reckon an Aussie Christian like me can learn a lot from this festival so favoured by our American friends. We Aussies tend to prefer understatement and grumbling; we can look with suspicion at that American penchant for positivity. But “thanksgiving” is a thoroughly biblical attitude and mode of expression, especially for those of us who know the God to whom we can direct our thanksgiving. As Jean has rightly pointed out, thanksgiving is not trivial. Thanksgiving is a right and proper response to all the good things God has done for us, and it can take a lifetime to develop the habit. So I say: let’s have more thanksgiving in our lives together, all year round!


Comments at The Briefing.

Published inThe Briefing

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Photo by Ruben Bagues on UnsplashLiving light (Ephesians 5:11–14)
    How should Christians relate to the world around us? Should we withdraw, or should we engage? How do we know which action to do when?
  • Photo by Ben Mullins on UnsplashThe test that matters (Ephesians 5:10)
    We live in a world full of tests and measurements. Believers in Christ should also test our lives. But when we do, we need to use the right standard.
  • Photo by Eric Patnoudes on UnsplashChildren of light (Ephesians 5:8–9)
    Believers in Christ have had their very identity changed: once darkness like the world, but now light. The challenge is to believe it, and to live it.
  • Dark tunnel coming out of the Amphitheatre, PompeiiWhat do you want to become? (Ephesians 5:5–7)
    Our dreams drive our daily actions. In 5, 10, 20 years, what will you have become? Living in grace as an imitator of God, or a partner with the world?
  • Photo by Jordan Beltran on UnsplashHoly talk (Ephesians 5:3–4)
    Often we try to fit in with others by the way we speak. But God calls believers to be holy, not filthy, in our speech, even if it sounds strange to others.
  • Holding child's handImitators of God (Ephesians 5:1–2)
    Christians are God’s dearly loved children, raised from death to life and secure with him, now and forever. This is what gives us the power to sacrifice.
  • Preaching sermons and shepherding the flock: What’s the connection?
    Lionel Windsor | 2 Feb 2015 | Priscilla and Aquila Conference | Moore College, Sydney I’m here republishing my 2015 paper, which originally appeared as a PDF and video. See here for more on the
  • Photo: NASA/ISS CrewThe Amazon Fires: A Gospel Response
    Unprecedented numbers of fires are now burning in the Amazon rainforest. How can the gospel of Jesus Christ be brought to bear on the situation?
  • Photo by Xan Griffin on UnsplashThe Victory of the Cross
    According to the Bible, Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s victory and triumph—a victory and triumph Christ shares with all who trust in him... (Audio)
  • Photo by Lina Trochez on UnsplashThe power of forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31–32)
    Believers are to forgive, as God has forgiven us. Forgiveness is not only possible for believers, it’s also powerful for our lives and relationships.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor