Perspectives by Rev. Clarence Witten


Messing up on Thanksgiving Day

I have a confession to make. I really don’t do justice to some of our special holidays. 

Take for example, Victoria Day. I love the day off, but sorry to say, I don’t do anything to celebrate the dead Queen who gave us the day. Or Boxing Day. It’s another great day. Who doesn’t like two days off in a row, but all my life I couldn’t tell you what that day commemorates. 

To be honest I probably don’t do any better with Labour Day. Sure, I’m all for supporting ‘labourers’ and all the hard work they do (coming from blue collar stock myself), but I can’t say I celebrate ‘work’. Sheesh, what fun is that? 

Likewise, if I’m really honest, I can even mess up on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a great day to enjoy fall colours, to pig out on turkey, and to enjoy family, but it’s pretty easy to do little by the way of being thankful. I suspect I’m not the only one who has this problem. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because celebrating thanksgiving isn’t that easy to do for a number of reasons.

The first reason is simply that we don’t naturally feel thankful for all we have. We just kind of get used to all the good things in our lives like our family, friends, health, jobs, or whatever. Or maybe we think we deserve them. We may appreciate these things, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into gratitude. 

What’s the solution? I read somewhere that the words ‘think’ and ‘thank’ are related. Makes sense to me. Only when we really think about all the things that make our lives so rich and have a sense that they are gifts from God will we be thankful. 

Of course that other thing that can get us to be grateful is to have these things taken away. Then we realize how wonderful it is to have them, and how grateful we should be for them.

I hate to say it, but another reason being thankful can be tough is because of our pride. We tend to think we have what we have because of us. We figure we are healthy because we look after ourselves. We think we’re well off because of our hard work. We see our success as being thanks to our smarts. It’s tough to admit that maybe somebody else has had something to do with keeping us healthy, or giving us our work ethic or the brains we have. 

I read of an African tribe who have an odd way of saying thanks. To express thanks to someone they bow before that person, put their forehead on the ground and say, “My head is in the dirt.” Seems to me they understand that to really give thanks is humbling. And because of this, giving thanks can be difficult. We tend to be proud people.

Suffering can also make thanksgiving hard. Who feels grateful when they’re facing cancer, or are broke, or have lost a loved one? When we go through things like this griping comes a lot more easy. 

Yet, the truth is even in life’s struggles, there is always still so much to be thankful for. The chances are good that the sun is still shining, that there are still a bunch of people around who love us, and that there’s still food on the table, to mention just a few things that we still have. So if we’d only think about these things, we really still could be thankful. 

There was a guy once who after being robbed of his money wrote in his diary: “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my (money), they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not someone else.” We could learn something from that guy.

I began by saying that I mess up in the way I celebrate some of the special holidays we have. Maybe you do to. 

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I realize that Thanksgiving Day is a day I should take seriously. We are so incredibly fortunate in this country. So undeniably blessed by God. Seems to me he deserves some genuine thanks. For all his gifts, for all his love, and especially for his son sent to save us.

Pastor Clarence Witten

Community Christian 

Reformed Church

Dixon’s Corners

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