We are all guilty of this. It's Thanksgiving Day, your house is packed, and you're rushing to get the turkey out. At no point have you stopped to just appreciate the holiday, God, and everything He has done for you to make this special occasion happen. Thanksgiving turns into day of gluttony, the day loses its reverence and power.
Thanksgiving for the Christian should be more than just another holiday. There’s no better time to set an attitude of gratitude towards God than during this special season, so it's important to stop and appreciate Him even when things a chaotic and the pie is burning in the oven.
There are lots of ways to celebrate Thanksgiving and the goodness of God and His many blessings. Here is a list of eight ways you can honor Him during this time of year.
Spend time praising Him.
There are many ways that you can praise the Lord. This can happen through prayer with your family, singing hymns at church, or completing a daily devotional. The way you choose to worship the Lord isn’t important; it’s the fact that you have done it. Most people get busy during the holidays and their spirituality gets put off to the side because of it.
Set up traditions with your family to praise Him on Thanksgiving, like having a prayer before your meal where each family member says what they are thankful for. This way, everyone is included and focused on God while they’re chowing down mountains of mashed potatoes. God should be at the center of your big meal, so make sure to keep Him there and at the forefront of your minds.
When is the last time you talked to that estranged family member? How about connecting with an old friend you had a falling out with? Jesus is able to forgive us each and every day for the countless sins we commit, so who are we to not forgive others? The holidays are the perfect time to let this pain go.
This Thanksgiving, choose to honor God by letting your heart be vulnerable and forgiving that person you hold a grudge against in your life. Though they may have put you through some hard times, forgiveness is something that can help set you free. It releases built up pain and anger in your heart so that you can make more space for God’s love.
One way to honor God is by serving your community. This is something you should be doing year round, but doing so around Thanksgiving is an even more special affair. It helps you stay focused on what the holiday is really about, helping others and showing thanks.
There are many different ways you can do this. Many churches open their doors to the less fortunate during the holidays by holding soup kitchens, for example. You might even find some churches letting the homeless in to eat and have a safe place to stay. There are also some non-Church related ways you can give back. Running a Thanksgiving “turkey trot” 5k to help raise money for a charitable cause might be the way your family gives back this year.
Meditate on His blessings.
When is the last time that you said thank you to God? Have you told Him recently that you appreciate all that He has done for you? God has transformed your life in so many ways for the better, simply because He loves you unconditionally. He never expects anything in return. Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, so this is the perfect time to meditate on the many blessings He has given you.
Don’t focus on just the earthly blessings you have been given, such as a good job or cool car. Also open up the Bible and meditate on His bigger promises. He sacrificed His Son for you, for example. He also promises to always take your worry and cast it aside when you need Him. These are things that we are blessed with every single day, so share your gratitude with Him.
Manage your stress levels.
The holiday season is an incredibly stressful time for many families, and it can cause breakdowns in communication and arguments. When we say “yes” to too much, never give ourselves a break, and forget to take care of ourselves, it only cause us to be bad servants to our families and God. You should always strive to be the best version of yourself you can be, and that starts with making sure you are mentally healthy. Making that second batch of cookies for your neighbor could quickly go sour when your stress levels are high, and you are thinking about your to-do list instead of the recipe.
Make sure to try and stay present in each moment and keep a level head. Understand that you don’t need to be perfect and that at times it is appropriate to say “no, I can’t do that right now.” This will help you to be of better service to your other commitments, including God.
Attend a Thanksgiving church service.
Even if your church isn't holding a Thanksgiving service, there are most likely ones in the area that are. Some even host entire Thanksgiving dinners. Thanksgiving services are a great way to glorify God and help keep you focused on the true reasons you are celebrating. Plus, you get to spend more time with friends and family for the holiday this way, rather than just sitting on your couch at home.
Many churches also have fall festivals leading up to Thanksgiving that are great for kids. Considering finding one in your area as it’s another great way your children can see God in action during the holiday. Search your church bulletin for options that work for you.
Teach your children the importance of Thanksgiving.
For most children, Thanksgiving is only a fancy day to eat lots of great food. It's not something they connect with on a deeper, more spiritual level. This can be changed by setting aside time to explain the importance of the holiday to your children.
There are many pieces of scripture about thanks and gratitude. For example, in I Thessalonians we are commanded “in everything give thanks”. In another passage, we are told to present all of our requests to God with a heart of thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). Part of the discipline involved in being thankful is to realize the goodness of God and his everlasting love toward us (Psalm 107:1); that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17); and when thankfulness is combined with prayer and supplication it is a cure for anxiety and conduit of peace (Philippians 4:6). Spend time reflecting on this scripture and helping your children learn how to apply it to their own lives.
Hearing others share their testimonies is a great way to connect with God on Thanksgiving. While you probably spend a lot of your time with God focusing on what He has done for your life, it is also important to acknowledge the amazing blessings He always provides others. Thanksgiving is about appreciating of all of God's works, not just the ones He gave to you.
A great way to do this is letting your Thanksgiving guest know ahead of time that they should prepare a short and simple testimony. It doesn't have to be long or turn into a sermon by any means. Then when everyone is together on Thanksgiving Day, each can share how God transformed their lives for the better.