Thanksgiving Is All About Giving Thanks. Or Is It?3 min read

As an immigrant who’s been living in the US for 17 years, I feel very much acclimated to the culture. Yet sometimes I’m surprised by certain aspects of it. I hear the word Thanksgiving and think, ‘giving thanks.’ But what I see all around is an obsession with food instead! Now, I can certainly appreciate the value of a feast, gathering with family and/or friends, and enjoying treats that are more easily found this time of year. But to say that Thanksgiving is not really Thanksgiving without turkey … is tantamount to say that there’s nothing else to it BUT turkey! (I’ve even seen the holiday referred to as T-Day, as in Turkey Day.)

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Most countries in the world don’t have a Thanksgiving holiday. This is an American (and Canadian) holiday – a day in which the nation pauses “to give thanks and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” as President Lincoln said in his proclamation and institution of the holiday. I did not remember that the word “praise” was in there, and I bet most people won’t remember whatever comes after “give thanks” in that proclamation either. Nowadays we see paper plates that generically say “give thanks” – but to whom? We go through exercises in “being thankful” or “showing gratitude” – but to whom?

Whenever I think of Thanksgiving, I like to envision the altar of one of the churches my father served as a pastor in Brazil. We did not have an official holiday, but we did have one Sunday a year in which we celebrated a Harvest Festival (which I recently learned is a European tradition). People would bring their firstfruit offerings to the altar, and the chancel would be filled with produce, baked goods, crafts – all kinds of things produced by the congregation members. It was beautiful! And it was so meaningful to see all those goods placed at the feet of the Giver; what an awesome way to say thanks. It makes me think of the verse in Exodus that says, “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God” (23:19a).

At All Times and in All Places

Thanksgiving. Praise. God’s altar. I’m no theologian, and I never thought about putting Thanksgiving and Communion together before, but I’m sure it is no coincidence that the Preface of the Service of the Sacrament says, “It is truly good, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O Lord, holy Father, almighty and everlasting God, for the countless blessings You so freely bestow on us and all creation. Above all, we give thanks for Your boundless love shown to us when You sent Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into our flesh and laid on Him our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally.…” (LSB, p.208). Rev. Will Weedon, in a 2012 broadcast of Issues, Etc.,  said: “[Holy Communion] is the recognition that in Jesus we have been given EVERYTHING. Everything we need in time and eternity is all reached to us in Jesus. And for this great gift… we say, ‘Thank You.’”

So perhaps Thanksgiving is about food, after all. Heavenly food, given for you and me for the remission of our sins. We are most blessed indeed.

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About the Author

Elisa is a staff writer, copy editor, and photographer for the Michigan District, LCMS.

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