Remembering Thanksgiving is especially important in what becomes an over-commercialized season of the year. As we seek to redeem every holiday with our children by pointing them to God and all He has done for us, Thanksgiving is a perfect holiday in which to honor God.
History of the Thanksgiving holiday
The history of Thanksgiving is of a people who desired to venerate God in every aspect of their lives, so we can start by teaching our children the history of the Pilgrims, the journey on the Mayflower, and Plymouth Plantation. The history of the holiday in America starts with the story of the Separatists (later called Pilgrims). After leaving England to enjoy religious liberty in Holland, they decided to further separate themselves from worldliness by coming to a new country. After reaching Massachusetts instead of the Virginia colony when storms blew them north, they decided to stay in Massachusetts and settled Plymouth. They suffered through a difficult first year, but with the help of Squanto, they were able to plant and harvest. At the end of their first year, the Natives and Pilgrims celebrated together in what we now call the first Thanksgiving. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. Check out our book recommendations in this article.
More importantly, Thanksgiving is a time when we can model for our children gratitude to God.
Why is it important to show giving thanks?
1. It is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus and is a characteristic virtue of the child of God. “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
2. Giving thanks is a form of worshiping, glorifying, and honoring God as we see in Hebrews 12:28: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Consider also Westminster Shorter Catechism #1: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
3. Thankfulness is a facet of the third commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7, KJV) Taking the Lord’s name in vain means considering his character lightly or not giving Him his due glory. Thus, if we are not giving thanks to God in all circumstances, we are taking his name in vain.
4. Being grateful cultivates a heart of contentment. When we take time to be thankful for all of our blessings, we gain an eternal perspective that keeps us from grumbling about what we wish we had. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
5. Gratitude toward God is not found in the lives of unbelievers and is their distinguishing sin. Thus, ingratitude is foolish. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:21-22)
6. God hates grumbling but those who are thankful are a witness of the gospel. God punished Korah in his rebellious grumbling against Him (Numbers 16). But when we “do everything without grumbling or arguing, [we] may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then [we] will shine among them like stars in the sky as [we] hold firmly out the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
What does it mean for us to give thanks?
Thanksgiving is giving due appreciation to God on account of who He is and what He has done!
Who is God that we should thank Him?
“God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” (WSC #4) He is the Creator (Genesis 1), Sovereign Lord of the Universe (Deuteronomy 3:24), the Word made flesh (John 1:1-14), love Himself (1 John 4:8), holy (Isaiah 6:3), our Shepherd (Psalm 23), and our Rock and Deliverer (Psalm 18:2). He is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9), righteous and just (Psalm 50:6), strong and mighty (Deuteronomy 3:24), powerful (Joshua 4:24), victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57), patient (2 Peter 3:9), kind (Romans 2:4), merciful (Daniel 9:9), gracious, compassionate, and slow to anger (Psalm 86:15). This is just the beginning of God’s amazing character!
What has He done that we should thank Him?
In his common grace to all men, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45), He is kind to all men, even the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35), He sustains all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3), He shows his kindness, forbearance and patience in order to lead sinners to repentance (Romans 2:4), provides food and joy (Acts 14:17), gives good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). To His children, He sent His Son to die on the cross that we might have eternal life (John 3:16), He works all things together for the good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and He richly provides everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). These are a few of the scriptural acts of God to meditate on, but we each have hundreds of personal examples of God’s goodness in our lives. Shall we not contemplate them and be thankful?
Here is a great sermon with some of this information! https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=108161811372
It is God’s will for us to give thanks at all times, not just Thanksgiving, but we can create traditions and memories on this special day that help us to focus on God and remember to be thankful throughout the year. Check out some of the traditions that we’ve enjoyed over the years include a few fun activities and a few which focus on truly giving thanks in Easy Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids and Best Thanksgiving Books for Kids.
Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday that often gets overlooked. Instead of treating Thanksgiving like Black Friday Eve in the anticipation to get “good deals” as consumers and so usher in the commercialism of Christmas, let’s take advantage of this day to focus on gratitude and our many blessings and teach our children the enduring value of thanksgiving everyday!
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All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica Inc.™ unless otherwise indicated. Used by permission of Zondervan.