As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I encourage you to consider the meaning of the day. How can we best celebrate this traditional holiday? There are at least three different ways that people approach this.

Turkey Day

Thanksgiving turkeyMany people see this primarily as a once-a-year opportunity to get together with the entire family. Of course, no matter how you view Thanksgiving, you’re likely to serve a turkey for dinner. Once the bird is cooked to perfection, everyone gets a helping of turkey, along with all the usual dishes and trimmings. Perhaps everyone sits together at a big table, or perhaps there’s a kids’ table or TV trays in the family room where people can watch football. No prayer is made and no one mentions anything about being thankful.

Feeling Gratitude

Another variation on Thanksgiving includes all of the above, plus a general feeling of thankfulness. At most, some will mention specific things for which they are thankful. Some may just quietly reflect on their gratitude, though they have no one to whom they express that gratitude.

Giving Thanks and Praise to God

So far, we have considered some who exhibit no thankfulness at all, and some who feel thankful but don’t express that to anyone in particular. I personally believe that Thanksgiving should include a spoken prayer of thanks and praise to God, along with recognition that our meal, our health and safety, and all that we have comes from Him.

A Proclamation

Abraham LincolnSecretary of State William H. Seward wrote, and President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation establishing a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise” in the United States in 1863. Please take a few minutes to read that proclamation here. Note that the proclamation was for a day of thanksgiving and praise, not only thanksgiving.

Seward and Lincoln recognized that God was at work in our country and deserved credit and recognition for His actions. As the proclamation states,

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

Our Response

Seward’s words are every bit as true today as they were in 1863. Our nation is currently engaged in a civil war of a different type than the one that took place then. Yet, today we need the same faith and humility, and should offer the same thanksgiving and praise to God that Americans gave 153 years ago.

Pilgrims praying

Concerning the good gifts and care given to us by God, “we are prone to forget the source from which they come,” as the proclamation stated. I find this tragic. Our Father in Heaven deserves our love, respect, praise, and thanksgiving, but most of us have intentionally turned our backs on Him. We, as individuals and as a nation, should once again acknowledge God as the source of all good gifts. May this Thursday and every Thanksgiving Day be “…a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father,” not merely a day to pig out or just have a warm, fuzzy feeling of undirected gratitude.