Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving: A Season of Mobilization

Many Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday. It may be debated whether it was started by the Pilgrims in Massachusetts with the help of Native Americans, or whether it started in Virginia or in Florida, but there is no question it began somewhere at sometime in North America because we celebrate it! Other important holidays, like Christmas and Easter for instance, are anticipated by the more traditional (or more serious) by times of preparation.

Advent is a time for preparing hearts to celebrate the Birth of Messiah, as well as a time of reflection preparing for the Second Coming of Christ. Lent is a time for preparing hearts to celebrate the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus. Lent often involves a time of fasting, a symbol of mourning over our own brokenness and sin that sent Jesus to the Cross. I wonder...what would we call a Preparation Season for Thanksgiving? Some have called it Harvest

I like that. Advent...Lent...Harvest. A time to prepare our hearts for... what? Thanksgiving

How much prep work does that take? Perhaps more than we may think. “Thanksgiving” was practiced by the Jews under the leadership of Moses long before the Europeans ever thought of the concept. The Jews celebrated the Feast of the Harvest or the Feast of Weeks in May/June every year. It was one of only THREE annual festivals celebrated by the people of God in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 16:16, Moses records, “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.”

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving by, well, supposedly giving thanks...usually around a dinner table set with turkey, gravy, mashed-potatoes, sweet-potato casserole, corn, eggs, dressing (or stuffing if you’re a Yankee like me), cranberry sauce, cheese soufflĂ©, green beans...and who knows what else! let’s not forget... football. I know, it sounds so...trite. It is.

Notice that when the people of God in the Old Testament celebrated the Feast of Harvest (a time to thank God for the crops that were able to be planted by His grace, that grew by His tender mercies, that survived by His providence, that were harvested by His kindness), they didn’t just “return thanks” but would not dare “appear before the LORD empty- handed.” What does THAT mean?!
It means that when the people thanked God for the Harvest, when THEY celebrated Thanksgiving, things were different...more different than just celebrating at what we call Pentecost while we celebrate in November. Celebration involved participation. Gratitude involved engagement.

Thanksgiving involved mobilization.

The people of God were to go before the Lord at the Feast of Harvest/Weeks with a SACRIFICE. A SACRIFICE of Thanksgiving. A SACRIFICE of Praise. A SACRIFICE that was not only expressing gratitude for the Lord’s provision in the past; but also an offering of faith expressed by giving God hard-earned and desperately needed sustenance that revealed trust that God would provide in the future, so a gift could be given with all confidence and peace.
I think we should try that.

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