This past Sunday while we had our weekly Sunday breakfast before church at one of the best restaurants in the entire country – McDonald’s – the Thanksgiving holiday came up.
Our son, Caleb, made the comment that Thanksgiving happened in 1620 and then asked the question, “Who made Thanksgiving?” I replied, Abraham Lincoln did. That answer didn’t sit right to those at the table as they thought about Europeans with black hats and funny shoes, and Native Americans with bows and arrows at a large table eating turkey. “Lincoln made Thanksgiving a holiday,” I said, and decided it was time to get the truth from the only place you can get the truth sitting in a McDonald’s – Wikipedia.
Interesting Wikipedia facts about that 1621 event:
1. There were only 50 Pilgrims involved — that’s half as many that came across the ocean blue.
2. There were about 100 Native Americans.
3. The feast lasted for 3 days or so, sometime between September and November, immediately after a harvest.
One of the most interesting items I found on Wikipedia is how Thanksgiving was done in the past. It wasn’t an official yearly holiday until Lincoln, but the thanksgiving days started to be practiced in the 1700s. George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving after winning a battle. And years later, Congress recommended that we offer a day of thanksgiving to God for helping with the formation of the country.
The thing that kept coming up in the Wikipedia article was the notion that thanksgiving feasts were randomly announced at times of huge events and it was a thanks to God (not thanks for things we are thankful for). Washington said in 1777:
….It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance….
Later on Congress recommended that Washington offer a day of Thanksgiving while they were working on forming the government. These were men who understood what thanksgiving was about in connection to God. It wasn’t just about some strange men and women in funny clothes and funny shoes having a feast with some Native Americans. It was a spiritual event — with underpinnings dating back to the Jewish state over 2000 years ago.
The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving in ancient Jewish days consisted of someone taking a sacrifice to the Temple. The priest would sacrifice a portion of the animal to the Lord, a portion was kept by the priests and the remaining was given to the worshiper. This is stark contrast to most regular sacrifices in which the entire animal was sacrificed and given to the Lord and the priests. Upon receiving the remaining portion, the worshiper would return home and could have a feast with family and friends. (FYI – The worshiper’s Passover sacrifice was also portioned out.)
Through Jesus we are no longer bound by the ancient law of sacrifice (PETA would be very upset with us if we were bound). Instead, we are covered through the blood, but we are still asked to offer praise, worship and prayer. That’s now part of our “sacrifice.”
May I suggest a slight change to your Thursday this week. Sometime on Thursday, whether it be while pulling the icky (but fun to show young kids) innards out of your 15 pound turkey or filling it with stuffing (we fill ours with apples and onions and cinnamon) or at halftime during the game, find a moment of silence where it’s just you and God and say thank You for all that He has given. Yes, yes, I know you already do this when you pray before eating. But make a small sacrifice in your Thanksgiving day, find a moment of silence, and tell your Lord thanks. Because in the end that’s what Thanksgiving was about — thanking our “Divine Benefactor.”