What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Is it the yearly, overeating ritual many people have reduced it to, or is it a lifestyle?
Thanksgiving was originally created to be a holy day. It was a time set aside for prayer, fasting, and giving thanks to God. Secular activities, like dancing, recreational activities or games, were not permitted on this day; it was all about giving thanks. It was a time the Pilgrims set aside to thank God for the harvest. The cornucopia, which is a basket or container overflowing with fruit, vegetables, flowers, and grains, signified prosperity and abundance and represented the overflow the land yielded during the autumn harvest.

The tradition many people today celebrate as Thanksgiving, was established at Plymouth Colony in 1621. It was a day of feasting between the Native Americans and Pilgrims. The feasting part of the celebration was never repeated and was probably called something other than Thanksgiving because it was a secular event. And as a result, it would not have been considered a day set aside to give thanks to God.

Two years after this custom began, the Pilgrims experienced a drought, and during their time of prayer and fasting, the rain came. When the rain came, the day progressed into a joyful celebration of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks. It is an expression of thanks for favor. Thanksgiving is God’s desire for your life. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

What many people view as Thanksgiving, has evolved from customs and family traditions that exclude God and the original intent and purpose for the holy day. What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Is it the yearly, overeating ritual many people have reduced it to, or is it a lifestyle? Thanksgiving is much more than a holiday; it is a way of life. The original intent and purpose for this time of year, and every day, is to restore peace and wholeness. Wholeness means nothing is missing, lacking or broken. Whatever is missing in your life must be restored after giving thanks.

A good example of this principle is the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:12-19. Jesus healed them of leprosy, but only one came back to give thanks. And Jesus said to him, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” When an individual had leprosy, he or she could have been missing body parts, like a toe or thumb. And although healing stopped the disease, it did not recover missing parts. However, as a result of giving thanks, not only was the one leper healed, but unlike the other nine, he was made whole, and whatever was missing was restored.

Thanksgiving is a force that changes and rearranges things. God desires to make you whole in every area of life, but wholeness begins with thanksgiving. So if you are looking to live a fruitful life, where you get answers to every prayer, you have to begin to live a life of thanksgiving.

I challenge you to reevaluate your traditions and make thanksgiving a daily practice. Unless we are thankful, we cannot become fruitful. Thanksgiving comes before the fruit and continues after the fruit. Give thanks today and every day! Remember, your wholeness begins with thanksgiving!
First published in the July 2011 issue of Change Magazine
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