STOVER: The meaning of Thanksgiving Day

Published 6:49 pm Saturday, November 18, 2017

By Larry Stover | Stover lives in Valley Grande and is pastor at Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene.

Many nations around the world celebrate the gathering of the harvest, but only in America do we celebrate and commemorate the people of the Plymouth Colony gathering with the Native Americans to thank God for their preservation.

Trying to find a definition of “Thanksgiving Day” results in many ideas.  or the most part it is defined as a day for the family, one of serious thought, church services, and/or a time of personal prayer and reflection.  Others see it as Turkey Day, the day before Black Friday, the annual Christmas kickoff, or just a time to pig out and watch football.

Email newsletter signup

From a Christian perspective, Thanksgiving is more than just another holiday.  It’s more than another day off of work or school.  It is actually a cornerstone of our faith.  True thanksgiving leads to praise and worship.  It is a celebration of the blessings of our Heavenly Father in all aspects of our lives.

Our nation has come a long way since that first Thanksgiving celebration. Our material gains far surpass our wildest imagination. Forget the time when it was said that if a man had a horse, he had the best transportation in the world. Women don’t spend all day in the kitchen any more.  Communication is instant rather than days away.

It is also overwhelming to realize that the vast majority of people in the world will not experience the lifestyle that we, as Americans, enjoy.

God has blessed America in so many ways and yet we ignore Him. I read on our car tags, “God Bless America,” and realize it should be reading, “God Forgive America.”  In this Post-Christian era of American society, we continue to make the mistake of asking God for all the blessings without doing our part in obedience to secure those benefits.

The greatest blessing of this holiday is the recognition of the best gift any of us have ever received. That gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Paul expressed it well in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

Jesus is described as that “good and perfect gift from the Father.”  Who else besides Jesus Christ can forgive you of your sin and disobedience?  Can anyone or anything else forgive and erase the guilt of making bad choices that sometimes can change our lives forever.  Only the Savior of the world can give you a new start unlike any new beginning you have ever experienced.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we receive a “grace explosion” that far exceeds any other gift we will ever receive in this life. It’s saving grace that gives you that fresh start.  Daily grace begins to do things in your life beyond your imagination.  Paul was almost under exaggerating when he described a new Christian’s relationship with Jesus Christ as the “old being gone and all things becoming new.”

A part of this transformation includes the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He is the enabler of that “Grace Explosion” that begins with our salvation and continues with every day we live.  The prophets told of this gift hundreds of years before the Day of Pentecost.  Jesus Himself described the Holy Spirit as that member of the Trinity that is “with you but one day will be in you.” The Holy Spirit set the early church on fire spiritually.

He can still do that today if we will die to self and allow the Holy Spirit to take charge of our lives.  Once the Spirt takes over your life you will never settle for spiritual complacency or mediocrity again.  He will ignite a new passion for the mission and purpose of God in your life.  You will never be the same.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let’s not forget to remember the reasons behind our thankfulness.  It is a time to praise God for His blessings in our individual lives and family.  Reflecting on the “Indescribable Gift” of Jesus Christ in your life will also make this season  “Simply Beautiful.”