The War on Thanksgiving

Every year the news fills with examples of the war on Christmas, citing examples that are serious, but many that are silly. We, however, often overlook the more pervasive and damaging war that is waged against Thanksgiving. This is a story of three enemies.

The first is obvious: consumerism. The push to buy stuff and measure our happiness with stuff begins after Halloween and lasts into the first week of January. Newspapers fill with advertisements and Google tracks our viewing so they can clutter Facebook with ads. Black Friday has metastasized into Thursday nights. Advertisers fuel our buying by making us discontent with what we have and yearning for what we don’t. Thanksgiving has become an intermission in our madness.

Too often we fail to fight this culture war against consumerism because the battlefield is our own heart and the enemy our own desires. It’s more fun to rail against godless hordes of secular humanists who are stealing Christmas decorations from coffee cups. But it is our own greed that robs us of joy and gratitude.

A second enemy is our consumerist approach to God. Too often God has been marketed as a blessing machine or a heavenly fix it man. We sometimes think God is in the business of delivering the American dream: great job, nice house, happy marriage, perfect kids and lots of stuff. When all this doesn’t fall in place, this false advertising steals our thanksgiving and sets the table with bitterness and disappointment.

Over the years, I have been blessed to have two pastors who struggled with addictions after they became Christians. God didn’t immediately fix everything in their in life. Both had, however, hearts grateful for the simple truths of the good news: God loves you, God has cleansed you, God has called you his child, and God has given you eternal life. Too often we recite these blessings without emotion while really feeling, “Yeah, yeah, but what have you done for me lately?” To defeat this enemy, we must intentionally rekindle our first love and the excitement of discovering God’s love and amazing grace.

A third enemy is our own forgetfulness. God was always telling Israel to remember what he had done for them in Egypt and how he had cared for them in the wilderness. The whole Passover celebration is meant to help them remember and be grateful. The extraordinary measures it takes to help Israel remember—festivals and sacrifices—reveals how easily we forget God’s blessings. It also reveals we must work at thanksgiving.

Present need and worry are always erasing past blessings and past answers to prayer. What we want for our future makes us forget what God has given in the past. God calls us to walk in the discipline of thanksgiving. We must rebel against the tyranny of present concerns and defiantly give thanks in the face of all our fears and unanswered prayers.

I doubt that the war on Thanksgiving will get on the news because we have met the enemy and sadly it’s our own selfish hearts. But winning this war is far more important than the war to get sales clerks to say, “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”. If we win this war, we gain hearts of gratitude: a Christmas gift precious to God.

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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