We just finished celebrating Thanksgiving, and are now on a trajectory toward Christmas. But did you ever stop to notice the connection between the two holidays?
Psalm 100:4 says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His Name.” Elsewhere the Bible says (2 Cor. 5:7) “We walk by faith, not by sight,” and that faith is the “evidence of things not seen . . . .” (Hebrews 11:1).
OK, so what does all this mean? In 1623, the Pilgrims under Governor Carver officially celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time. There had been several other thanksgiving celebrations in Virginia and Massachusetts, but none of these were deemed “official” celebrations. On Thanksgiving, it is common for people to give thanks for what they have been given by God.
Did you know, though, that America is the only nation that celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday? It’s a purely American holiday. There is no Austrian “Thanksgiving” or Croatian “Thanksgiving.” Now, certainly they have their own holidays—but it’s important to understand that American Thanksgiving is unique to this country. You could say it’s “exceptional.”
So back to the Bible verses. Why are they significant? If faith is the “evidence” of things not seen, what exactly were the Pilgrims giving thanks for? Food and abundance—for the first time in years—yes. Peace (for a while) with the Indians. But coming when it does, just a month before Christmas, Thanksgiving is in its essence a faith proclamation of what God would do in the future, i.e., with the birth of Jesus. A month before the gift from God—His Son—we give thanks to God. In other words, whether they realized it or not, the Pilgrims were ushering in the Christmas season by giving thanks for what had not arrived yet—the birth of the Son of God.
I think it’s also significant that this Thanksgiving celebration occurs before Christmas only happens in America. It is yet one more piece of evidence of American Exceptionalism, even if today most people do not make the connection. So, Merry Christmas!