- Eldon Peterson
How Thanksgiving Reveals Our Creator
In two weeks, most of us will be in the midst of our preparations for our Thanksgiving Day celebrations. As we look forward to this, I ask you to consider how our celebration of Thanksgiving testifies of man’s uniqueness in creation. While Thanksgiving is just another day to our dog or cat, it is a day that is filled with meaning and expectation for us. These simple observations can help us recognize both the creativity of our creator and the uniqueness of humankind. Let me explain.
The Thanksgiving observance traces its roots to Gov. William Bradford’s Thanksgiving proclamation on Nov. 23, 1623, “All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones, do gather at the Meeting House, on the hill… there to listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.” With these words, a tradition that reveals man’s unique place in creation was born!
First, our Thanksgiving Day celebration reveals self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is the recognition of self (seen in a few animals) and the ability to step back and become a spectator, critic or admirer of the world. It makes ethics a possibility, gives us awareness of our need for others and makes it possible for us to compare what we are with what we would like to be. Therefore, the reason for celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving are greater than turkey and stuffing; we also celebrate giving thanks for the relationships we have with friends and family.
In our Thanksgiving celebration, we reveal our ability to understand time. We know today and yesterday, but we also know that in two weeks we will be able to sit down and enjoy a wonderfully prepared meal. This ability to anticipate a future joy is another uniquely human trait. Bradford’s message was to “render thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.” Giving thanks to God exposes faith that is both a uniquely human trait and critically important. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Our mere ability to express thanks with words testifies of a creator. While my dog may wag his tail when I come home or express joy when fed, he lacks the ability to express his thankfulness with words. The limitless cognitive nature of our minds is another thing that separates us from the animals. While other mammals can exhibit some communication, they are nothing compared to the complexity of the ability of a child to communicate.
Furthermore, the creativity in which our Thanksgiving celebrations are expressed also reveals our creator. If you were to visit a dozen homes to view their celebrations, you would experience this creativity in everything from the decorations to the food. We would find everything from the traditional turkey and stuffing to a vegetarian spread of Tofurky and vegan stuffing.
A final note about the uniquely human celebration of Thanksgiving is seen in those for whom we you are thankful. In our celebration, we express our thankfulness to God for the relationships he has given us. Paul expresses this as he gives thanks to God for his relationships with the churches. To the Corinthians Paul writes, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”
Ultimately, as Governor Bradford reported, God is the reason for our thanksgiving. He not only gives us life but also gives us the ability to appreciate life. Throughout the Bible we find statements similar to Psalms 9:1 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Thankfulness is the natural response to those who bless us.
As we then consider the many blessings we have received from the Lord, may we heed Paul’s call to, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) God has given us the unique ability to comprehend thankfulness and he has given us the voice to express this to those we love. May we use our voices to thank not only those we love but may we also thank the Lord, the author of life.