I remember what my dad used to always say about Thanksgiving. It is his favorite holiday because there isn’t gift giving involved. Sorry Dad, I guess we just wanted too many presents when we were kids! But, thanksgiving at it’s best, it’s just pure family and friends expressing their gratitude toward God. It is a way for us to acknowledge that we know where our blessings come from.
At it’s worst? Well, you can’t get much worse than the awkwardness of Thanksgiving called, “Turkey Day.”
It feels so strange to me when someone says, “Happy Turkey Day.” Where did this strange salutation come from? My guess is this is someone’s attempt at being sensitive so you won’t have any allusion that they presume you might be thankful to God for anything. Is this going the way of Seasons Greeting, Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas for Christmas? Maybe not, but it seems so.
And, if this is the case, why does the turkey get all the love? Happy Turkey Day? Why not Happy Stuffing Day? Happy Cranberry Sauce Day? Have yourself an awesome Pumpkin Pie Day?
Well, at least gratitude is coming up on the radar of modern society today.
The current popularity of practicing an attitude of gratitude enters into the public forum all the time now. Just google the word “Gratitude” and you will see a full page of science articles concerning how the human brain is wired for gratitude. We have been learning about an attitude of appreciation and gratitude here at LIFEHouse for quite some time now as we continue to learn more and more how God wires us for appreciation and high-joy. It is fortunate that sources like Psychology Today, Forbes, the New York Times, and the University of California-Berkeley are finally catching up.
But, I do find it ironic that these publications, are expressing gratitude as all the rage. Here’s my question.
Who am I being grateful to when I am told to have this attitude of gratitude from sources which vary from leading scientific journals to my yoga instructor? I think the disconnect comes with the word, “gratitude.” Are you grateful for something or someone, or are you grateful to something or someone? It seems to me gratitude needs at least two parties. Someone who is grateful to someone else.
Let’s try this out.
I thank fate for bringing me the blessings I receive.
That doesn’t cut it. I’ll try again.
I give thanks, O random mutation and natural selection, for your coming together in such a marvelous way to give me Nancy as my wife.
No, none of this works. It probably has something to do with the difficulty of overriding your fast track right brain. Remember, the brain is composed of fast track information that comes at us at the speed of about 6 images per second from the right side of the brain. This is faster than we can think. Faster than our own consciousness. Even if I am an avowed atheist, I can’t stop my fast track brain, which deals in matters of identity and values, from firing out gratefulness emotions towards an unknown cause or source of my gratitude. Help me! I can’t stop it!
Now I can try to use the decision-making slow track 5 images per second left part of my brain to correct my gratefulness, and make sure the object of my thanks is not an entity, but…It’s too late. The fast track has already brought a sense of gratitude and it is registering as an emotional response to an unknown source.
There, I just pretty much complicated thanksgiving even more, haven’t I?
Let me straighten it out. I think Jews and Christians at least have the God stuff figured out. In the Hebrew of the Old Testament the word for thanksgiving is todah which comes from the word, yadah, which means, “Praise.”
Here is an example of the use of todah from Psalm 26:7
…that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,
and tell of all Your wondrous works.
So, giving thanks is praising God. That makes sense.
The original Christian word for thanksgiving from New Testament Greek is eucharistia, which translates, “Giving thanks for God’s grace.”
Grace is God’s way of saying we are special and we don’t have to do anything to be special to him.
One of the places Jesus comes to us with his love freely with no strings attached is Holy Communion. Another word for Holy Communion you may be familiar with? “Eucharist.”
Here is an example of the word Eucharist from 2 Corinthians 4:15
All these things are for your sakes, so that the abundant grace through the thanksgiving of many might overflow to the glory of God.
So for Jews and Christians, thanksgiving is related to God in the very definition of the word.
Well, wisdom leads me to stick with God. So, because I thank God for you, from my family to yours- Happy Thanksgiving!