Our lives are filled with many responsibilities. Our days are usually taken up with useful activities. Much of our time is spent working. We have five days a week for that, and for many of us the other days are filled with work too. Sometimes our days are taken up with fighting—not physically for most of us, but for causes or sometimes even against colleagues who want to cut corners or do something that is morally questionable at work. There is also a time for us to weep for sin, and we do sin. Most of us try to avoid such times. They need to be urged upon us more often than they are.
But the day of Thanksgiving is different. Work? Yes, but not that day. You will work on another day. Fight? Perhaps, but not then. There will be other times for that. Weep? By all means, but not on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is a day 'to enjoy what God has given.
In the biblical context, joy is never mere frivolity, however. We rejoice because of the way God has blessed us. Therefore, when we rejoice, as we do on Thanksgiving, we also remember God's manifold past blessings. And not only blessings from the immediate past, thanking him for the bountiful display of food he has provided, but also for all the blessings of past days—for years of faithful safekeeping, for constant provision of our needs, for spiritual treasures beyond counting.
This was a feature of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, because the instructions to construct temporary outdoor shelters was intended to remind the people of the days of the Exodus when they had lived in the desert in tents. They were to remember how God had brought them through the wilderness and had established them in the land of promise.
So let's keep this in mind too. The problem with mere celebration is that it tends to take over and push any serious reasons for joy from our minds. That ought not to happen. We are to be joyfully thankful. But one obvious reason for it is God's physical and spiritual blessings to us, our parents, and our children over many generations.
Thanksgiving Day should be for us a spiritual Sabbath, that is, a day of rest before God. Our world is trying to secularize everything. It is even afraid to call Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving. Instead it calls it Turkey Day, which is an offense to Christians and an insult to God. Let us not allow this to happen where we are concerned. Our day is not Turkey Day, however much we may enjoy the turkey. It is Thanksgiving, thanksgiving to God, thanksgiving to our most gracious God. No God is like our God. So let us always observe our day as unto the Lord and be really thankful.
Boice, James Montgomery. Come to the Waters. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.
Used with permission.