Ideas for celebrating a timeless holiday.
Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.
Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100)
Thanksgiving Day is officially a secular holiday, but as Christians we know that this day has a very special meaning. The holiday has been celebrated since colonial times, although it wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln made his proclamation in 1863 that it began to be held regularly in November. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill that made the fourth Thursday of November the official Thanksgiving holiday, thus Americans have marked it without fail for the past seven decades.
Today, giving thanks to God is not a top priority for many people, with food, football and family, taking center stage. I recall one Thanksgiving dinner where the conversation was focused on who was going to get up early the next morning to take advantage of “Black Friday” specials at retail outlets. I’m not against holiday shopping, but I was disappointed that our focus was solely on the temporal.
My family is weighing how we will celebrate the holiday this year. As has been the practice in most recent years, we’ll stay home and have dinner, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and enjoy a rare break in the midst of a work week. We’re also discussing some important ways we can give thanks to God, but not just on that day. Thanksgiving for believers is a state of mind, not only a holiday, which means that we’re constantly and naturally demonstrating an “attitude of gratitude” for all things God has done for us in the name of Jesus Christ.
To that end, I’ve reviewed some ideas for marking Thanksgiving this year, including some that we’ll undertake well before the fourth Thursday of November:
1. Pack a shoe box – We’ve long been supporters of Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. OCC is a global effort whereby people pack shoe boxes for children ranging in age from 5- to 14-years-old, filling these with toys, school supplies and personal items. The annual campaign is currently underway with collection to be completed just days before Thanksgiving. Our family enjoys participating because we know that we’re able to directly impact children with a tangible expression of God’s love for them.
2. Make a wreath – Are you crafty? I don’t mean sly…. Rather, do you like to work with crafts? The National Geographic Kids website has a nifty and rather simple idea on how to make a Thanksgiving wreath. Start off with a grapevine wreath obtained at your local arts and craft store. Then, add in fallen leaves, dried berries and acorns, and dress it with a colorful ribbon. I like NGK’s suggestion to donate the wreaths to a senior facility. You can also take your wreath to a neighborhood shut-in, give one to your Thanksgiving dinner host or spread some cheer elsewhere.
3. Share the light – Do you find it difficult to get a conversation started? One certain way to engage people is through a candle display as offered by Better Homes and Gardens. Not just any display, but one that reflects your family…literally. Take one hurricane glass and cut scrapbook paper to measure the circumference of the glass. Add fall themed stickers, bows and other touches, but the most important ingredient is a family photograph that is attached to the paper. If you have a long table, then make several picture lamps and put these on display. You’ll get the conversation started in no time as your guests recall an important event or chapter in their lives.
4. Contribute to those in need – When is it a good time to give? Always! Often, charities single out a holiday and ask for people to contribute a few dollars so that the less fortunate have a special meal to celebrate at Thanksgiving, Christmas or some other major holiday. Certainly, meeting these appeals can be a worthy response. Keep this in mind too: your church likely has a benevolence fund, but those monies may be in short supply in this tough economy. Consider making a special donation to that fund this year, as one way for you to “contribute to the needs of the saints.”
5. Invite someone in – You’ll be gathering with loved ones this Thanksgiving, but is there someone you can invite who would welcome being part of your celebration? A widowed neighbor. A new to the community family unable to get “home” for the holiday. A divorced mom and her kids. Someone unable to return the favor, but immensely grateful not to be alone on a holiday. Invite “Jesus” into your home this season in the form of the “least of these.”
6. Go and decorate – Once Thanksgiving is over, everyone’s thoughts will quickly turn to Christmas. Use the extended weekend to find someone who needs help decorating his or her home for the holidays, bringing down boxes from the attic, stringing outside lights and offering to set up seasonal displays. Bring with you cookies and hot chocolate, making this an event that will not be forgotten. Offer to return after the holidays to pack up and put away the decorations.
7. Read up on the holiday – The history of Thanksgiving is often distorted, with the typical scene showing happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down for a delightful meal outside. However, that story is not accurate as the first celebrations in Massachusetts weren’t all that joyful given that the harvests were far from bountiful. What we do know is that the earliest European settlers were not hard working and it took two years of want due to laziness and thievery to get the Pilgrims to abandon their collectivist ways notes David N. Mayer, professor of law and history at the Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.
One more suggestion: read President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation. You’ll find an executive declaration that is instructive, as this prayer reveals much about the character of Lincoln while underscoring the desperate condition of a country divided by civil war.
In what Christ-honoring ways will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? Feel free to add your comments or tips to this article after hitting the reply button.
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