How Important is Thanksgiving Day?

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Every year a public proclamation is made by our president to declare a day for “giving thanks”.  I believe that the church should celebrate that proclamation.  In the past, I believed it was important to emphasis that celebration in each community that I was in.  In my last charge I would advertise in the local newspaper with an advertisement that asked the question, “What is the purpose of Thanksgiving Day?  It would be a multiple choice question.  Three possibilities were given:  Watch Football, Have a Thanksgiving Day family dinner, or Give thanks to God.  Either the box next to the answer was checked or the reader could check the book.  The answer would be upside down at the bottom of the page:  “Answer: Give thanks to God.” The church’s address and time of service would follow.

A second event that occurred in the various communities I served was that the Ministerial Association would conduct a Thanksgiving Service on Wednesday Evening.  That would prompt the churches in the community not to conduct a worship service on Thanksgiving Day.  I, along with my council, supported the community service but also felt that a worship service should be conducted on Thanksgiving Day as well.

I sometimes wonder how much as a church we appreciate the fact that we are given annually a day to celebrate a special day called, “Thanksgiving Day”.  When tragedy strikes we are quick to call for a special prayer service asking for God to help us recover and heal.  When friends tell us of a problem they have encountered, we are quick to say, “I’ll pray for you”.  How often are we asked to pray to give thanks to God for the good things that are happening in our lives?  I have to admit I have never heard someone say, “I’ll pray giving thanks to God for the good thing that happened in your life,” or neither have I said it.

Is giving thanks really an important part of our prayer life? I would suggest that as leaders in the church we need to emphasis that more. One way to begin the process is to conduct a Thanksgiving Service on Thanksgiving Day even though we participate in a community service. Another way is to prepare our congregation by having them reflect prior to Thanksgiving Day on questions such as, “Why do I give thanks, how do I give thanks, and when do I give thanks?

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In Canada, for years we had a church service on Thanksgiving Day.   Today we have a special service on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, turning the regular service into a Thanksgiving Service, possibly because we are often still harvesting on Thanksgiving Day (second Monday in October).  Possibly because we seem to have less time to give thanks than we did in the past.   In a way, every sunday is a thanksgiving day, giving thanks for life, for redemption, for food and clothing, for work, for God's blessings and provisions for us.  So on Thanksgiving Day, or the Thanksgiving Sunday, its nice, and fitting, that we spend some additional time on our Thanks to God.