National holidays are known in our nation for their commercialization, and this is especially true, or so it seems, with those associated with Christianity. Easter? New clothes and Easter bunnies, must-have new baskets for the little ones. Christmas? When Christians campaign to “keep Christ in Christmas,” you know it’s a lost cause culturally.
Even the worshipers of darkness find their Halloween sullied with the buying and giving of large stashes of candy for the trick-or-treat darlings in their newly-bought outfits for the occasion. I was waiting in a check-out line at Wal-Mart a few days ago as the cashier was dealing with a customer ahead of me. A cell phone rang behind me, and the woman who answered it notified her caller that she had just picked up her Halloween costume. Glancing back at her, my first thought was . . . , oh well, never mind.
But then there’s Thanksgiving. Finally, a non-commercialized holiday, or so many think. Folks gobble their turkey and dressing as they work their way through the Black Friday sales, getting to bed early so they can get the jump on the crowd the next morning.
Really, though, that is not the worst thing about Thanksgiving. A greater problem with Thanksgiving in our day is that thanks is extended to no one in particular. Watch television news broadcasters. They will run stories about acts of kindness during the Thanksgiving season and may even share some of their favorite Thanksgiving memories, stories about family and food and football, stuff to make you feel all warm inside. But to whom are they thankful? Rarely is there even a nod to God.
Of course, things have not always been so in our country, much to the chagrin of those who try to rewrite our nation’s history. For instance, Governor John Hancock of Massachusetts issued the following proclamation in 1783 to celebrate our nation’s independence from Great Britain:
Whereas … these United States are not only happily rescued from the Danger and Calamities to which they have been so long exposed, but their Freedom, Sovereignty and Independence ultimately acknowledged.
And whereas . . . the Interposition of Divine Providence in our Favor hath been most abundantly and most graciously manifested, and the Citizens of these United States have every Reason for Praise and Gratitude to the God of their salvation.
Impressed therefore with an exalted Sense of the Blessings by which we are surrounded, and of our entire Dependence on that Almighty Being from whose Goodness and Bounty they are derived;
I do by and with the Advice of the Council appoint Thursday the Eleventh Day of December next (the Day recommended by the Congress to all the States) to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, that all the People may then assemble to celebrate . . . that he hath been pleased to continue to us the Light of the Blessed Gospel; . . . That we also offer up fervent Supplications . . . to cause pure Religion and Virtue to flourish . . . and to fill the World with his glory.
There has been for decades a concerted effort in the United States to remove any vestiges of Christianity from the public square. We lament the effectiveness of those who hate Christianity. Let’s be honest, though. They have been effective in removing Christian words and symbols because we as a nation have essentially removed God from our lives individually. It’s not a great step to remove God from our lives collectively.
There’s not much we can do directly to reverse our culture’s neglect of God, but we can do something directly in our lives and in our families. We can recover a lifestyle of verbal gratefulness to God for his blessings unto us. A people of God is a people who explicitly give him thanks. David’s words should be ours: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” (1 Chronicles 16:8, ESV).