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It is hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is next week. Where has this year gone?! We trace the roots of Thanksgiving back to a feast celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans at Plymouth Plantation in 1621. Similar celebrations followed in later years and spread to various locales. Various government officials and bodies declared Thanksgiving holidays early in our history as a nation, but it wasn’t until a presidential proclamation in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln that Thanksgiving became an official holiday observed annually. The date for Thanksgiving was finally fixed as the fourth Thursday in November by Congress in 1941.

Many of us have family traditions and memories surrounding Thanksgiving. As a child, I remember gathering with my extended family at my grandparents’ house, eating turkey and all kinds of side dishes and desserts (especially pumpkin pie!), and watching football on television. Now, we gather with Nancy’s family at her parents’ house each year and even do our Christmas gift exchanges with them. My hope is that as Becca and James grow up, they will have similarly fond memories of time spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins during Thanksgiving as I do.

Today, Thanksgiving has taken on another meaning: the beginning of the shopping season for Christmas. In fact, it almost gets squeezed out as a holiday as stores go straight from stocking Halloween items to Christmas ones. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday and is the busiest shopping day of the year – a tribute to our consumeristic culture. My advice: skip the sales this year and instead visit our Mall-ternative Gift Fair in the Fellowship Hall on December 1st from 1:00 to 4:00 or December 2nd from 9:30 to 12:30. Various outreach ministries will be selling handcrafted gifts, books, holiday décor, fair trade good, shares in ministry and much more.

Thanksgiving is also much more than a holiday. It is part of who we are called to be as the people of God. Scripture, especially the Psalms and some of the letters in the New Testament, tell us over and over again to give thanks to God for all that we have. “O Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1) and “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) come to mind in particular.

Richard Foster, in his Celebration of Discipline, along with classically understood practices such as prayer, fasting, study and worship identifies Celebration (or Thanksgiving) as a spiritual discipline. In fact, he asserts that all other disciplines should lead us toward it, and that it is “at the heart of the way of Christ.” To be a Christian people, then, is to be a people who celebrate and give thanks.

This Thanksgiving, in the midst of food, football, family and whatever else fills your day, I invite you to pause, even if only for a few moments, and reflect on the things for which you are thankful. As the old hymn reminds us, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God hath done.” Remember that grace abounds and all we have is a gift from God. Take time to give thanks…you’ll be glad you did.