You cannot have a secular Thanksgiving holiday.
I repeat, it is impossible to have a secular Thanksgiving holiday.
Now, I know that initially this sounds like nonsense. Obviously, lots of people who don't believe in God or actively practice any form of faith regularly gather for turkey and the fixings. They may even take a moment in their meal to hold hands and mention the things they are thankful for this year.
But what I want to argue is that the very act of "giving thanks" or "being thankful" suggests Someone to whom we are grateful. The very act of thanksgiving is like a prayer.
When we have good things in our lives, something within us wells up with joy and the longing to be grateful to Someone. This is a longing for God that has been given to us.
Of course, the secular emphasis of many holidays has been pushed lately. People want to participate in the fun of the holidays without the claim that believing in God would make on them. If God has been good to me and I am thankful to Him, perhaps I should interact in relationship with Him. Perhaps I should stop ignoring Him. Perhaps I should crack open that Bible. Perhaps I should start living my life in the way that it teaches.
So, we try to have our cake and eat it too. We try to enjoy the "fun" aspects of holidays without anything in our lives changing. We want to open presents on Christmas, set up a Christmas tree, and maybe even go to church on Christmas Eve. But we just want to feel inspirational "warm fuzzies." We don't want the preacher to challenge us. We don't want to think about the idea that a baby had to be born to save us from our sins.
This mindset is bleeding into Thanksgiving as well. For awhile, I have heard Thanksgiving called "Turkey Day." But this morning I saw a commercial, put out by Party City, that refers to Thanksgiving as "Football Feast." The idea for this blog post had already been percolating in my brain, and I said to myself, "Really? We're not giving thanks to anyone? We're just gorging ourselves and watching football!"
I have hope though. I still thank the vast majority of people feel thankful on Thanksgiving. I think the vast majority of people stop in the midst of the busyness of life and quietly whisper thanks. Even if they don't go to church. Even if faith doesn't play too big of a role in their lives. There is still that quiet thankful yearning, to tell Someone they appreciate all they have been given.
And that quiet yearning is a God-given opportunity. Next time a friend says to you, "I just feel so thankful for all my blessings," maybe you could stop and remind them that God is the One who has given all things to them, and that He loves them dearly.
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