“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”
George Washington issued that proclamation in 1789, two hundred and twenty-six years ago. That call for corporate thanksgiving still rings true today.
Every November, as Americans prepare for the final rush to Christmas, we mark the beginning of the holiday season with a day set aside to acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings we have enjoyed. Even those who claim no loyalty to or knowledge of God celebrate the last Thursday in the month as a time for festive family gatherings.
Sadly, though, for many Christians this is the only day they remember God’s largesse, the only time they pause in recognition of God’s grace. Three hundred and sixty-four days have passed since they last gave any thought to God’s goodness. That is a theological tragedy, a spiritual travesty. Every moment, every day, every mercy gives us cause to thank God and acknowledge His unmerited favor.
If only we had hidden God’s word in our hearts we would know that God is glorified when we offer thanksgiving as our sacrifice (Psalm 50:23) and that we should come into His presence year-round with thanksgiving on our lips (Psalm 95:2 and 100:4). We would agree with Paul that everything created by God is good and to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4). We could admit with James that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above (James 1:17).
Yet, all too often we don’t do those things. We fail to give God all the glory and praise due His name. We take Him and His gifts for granted. Like a spoiled child at Christmas we expect God to give and give. All the while we withhold our thanks. That is to our collective, sinful shame.
I want to issue every one of you a challenge. I encourage you to make a new year’s resolution five weeks before New Year’s Day. This Thanksgiving, November 23, as you gather with family or friends to mark the passing of another year of God’s goodness, I challenge you to do something life-changing. This Thanksgiving, as you look back over the last twelve months and count your blessings, I challenge you to look forward, to commit to giving God the praise of your thanksgiving every day for next twelve months.
On the surface this may sound easy. It won’t be. It takes three weeks of continual, repeated effort for any action to become a habit. For the first month, you’re going to have to make yourself remember to say your prayers of thanksgiving. But, it’s not going to get any easier after that. The next challenge you’ll face is atrophy. You’ll give your thanks every day but over time it will become little more than a habit, something you have to do with little real thanksgiving in your heart. After that, it will get harder still for you risk falling into apathy. You’ll realize you’re doing it for no other reason than keeping your resolution alive and you’ll begin to question your original motive, finding little reason to keep on going. Guilt will spur you on a little longer as you remember that you have good cause to be thankful, and, oh yeah, you remember that you made a commitment way back in November. Finally, as next Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll catch your second wind and get excited about the prospects of having done something unexpected for an entire year. You’ll finish strong and you’ll likely never try it again.
You see, sin robs us of our joy and denies God His glory. Sin limits our thanksgivings to one day per year and fertilizes our misgivings every other day.
But, here’s one last thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. God in His infinite mercy sent His Son to die on a cross, to pay our sin debt because we can’t. Thankful yet? You should be. Every day you sin, every time you repent, God is faithful and just to forgive your transgressions. Every day. And, thus, every day you have another reason to sing God’s praises and offer your thanks.