Has there ever been a Thanksgiving when our nation was as politically divided as it is today?
Yes, of course, during the Civil War — especially after the Union Army’s turning-point victory at Gettysburg prompted President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thursday, Nov. 23, 1863, as a federal holiday of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
But for a moment, let’s set aside all of today’s extreme divisiveness because, by this time, you have read or heard countless tips on “How to survive Thanksgiving with family” — as evidenced by that exact phrase yielding over 35 million Google search results.
Instead, let’s discuss a holiday dinner topic even more polarizing than politics — God. More specifically, let’s recognize that “giving thanks to God” is the original national purpose of Thanksgiving, as detailed in my 2018 holiday piece.
These days, I would wager that the majority of Americans are unaware of this historical fact. Therefore, let’s explore and connect the concept of “giving thanks to God” with “how to survive Thanksgiving with family.” What follows is a course of action that will likely reap a bountiful harvest of family love and bonding.
First, how does one “give thanks” to God? The answer is both simple and complex.
Giving thanks starts with accepting His presence as your Creator and the Creator of the universe. In other words, it means humbling yourself by submitting to His great power and glory. Unbelievers might find these two “simple” concepts of humbling and submitting to be extremely challenging. But if you consider yourself an “unbeliever” and have read this far, perhaps you are open to the possibility that acknowledging Him is often the first critical and most difficult step.
Second is offering praise and thanksgiving for the blessings He has bestowed upon you and your family no matter the circumstances, drama, conflict, and division currently at hand. And there is no better time to start than around the Thanksgiving table.
Thus, what I am about to suggest may sound hokey, but it can be an uplifting and meaningful family experience. The hardest part is finding a family member who is willing to take the lead. (And that may very well be YOU.)
As your family gathers, the leader will ask everyone around the table to thank God aloud for at least one specific blessing (but addressing multitudes of blessings should also be encouraged). If taken seriously, this exercise will foster deeper communication rooted in love for each other and for God, who is love. Furthermore, expressing blessings will facilitate a more peaceful, loving, and enjoyable dinner.
To help motivate you to partake in this turkey-day family prayer circle, below are excerpts from two Psalms (a sacred song or hymn) from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) to provide some encouragement and justification. You may even want to read them aloud to set the mood.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:2
And from the last book of the New Testament:
They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen!
Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:11-12
By returning to and acknowledging the original meaning of Thanksgiving, you and your family will be “fed” with the true spirit of this federal holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving to God, everyone!