(Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
The Thanksgiving holiday isn't just an opportunity for Christians to give thanks for their friends, family and possessions, but it is also an opportunity for them to give God due credit for blessing them with all they have. In this final part of our Thanksgiving series, we will take a look at how Christians can have a Christ-centered Thanksgiving holiday.
Bruce Jones, pastor of Southside United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., told The Christian Post via email on Wednesday that celebrating the abundance of the harvest season is fine, but “a more 'God-centered,' biblical understanding would underline thankfulness in ALL circumstances.”
He also said Christians need to be reminded they should be thankful for their heavenly treasures as well as their earthly ones.
“True thanksgiving hinges not on our material prosperity, but our grace-filled relationship with our Creator,” said Jones.
In addition to watching football and enjoying family, Thanksgiving is a time when Americans fill their dining room tables (and then their stomachs) with food, but should Christians be concerned about the sin of gluttony? Can God's followers be faithful to Him when everyone around them is pigging out?
In a blog post titled “Feast or Gluttony,” which appeared on The Resurgence website around the Thanksgiving holiday last year, author Mike Anderson answers those questions by saying, “It all depends on your heart.”
“Food, like money, sex, and power, is often used as a substitute for something only God can give,” he wrote. “It can bring satisfaction, comfort, escape, and even a source of identity. It’s a false savior.”
Some signs of gluttony people should be aware of, he said, include seeking one's fulfillment in food, an inability to find satisfaction in it or being too inwardly focused rather than focused on God and other people during the holiday.
A godly feast occurs, however, when people recognize God as the provider and realize that everything else is simply what He's given.
“What I hope you do is go to Jesus, tell him what’s in your heart, and ask for the Spirit to make your heart feel what your head knows – that God is God and food is just a gift,” said Anderson.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 248 million turkeys and 750 million pounds of cranberries are expected to be raised in the U.S. in 2011. In 2010, major sweet potato growing states produced 2.4 million spuds while major pumpkin-producing states raised 1.1 billion pounds of the orange vegetable. It takes wheat to make pie crust, rolls and bread for Thanksgiving meals, and the U.S. produced 2.01 billion bushels of wheat in 2011.
With those kinds of statistics there is plenty of food to go around, which is why many churches also use the Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to provide food to the less fortunate, with the hopes of giving them something to be thankful for.
There are many ways to make a difference on Thanksgiving. Some churches host community dinners. Other congregations offer their services to local homeless shelters as a means of living out their faith and feeding those in poverty at the same time.
WBBM Newsradio reported that a woman who received Thanksgiving groceries from a Roman Catholic church, St. Columbanus in Chicago, said she desperately needed the free meal and was elated to have received it.
“It means a lot to me, yes Lord!” the woman said. She also said that without it “we'd be starving.”
First Baptist Church of Medina, Ohio, worked together with Medina Community Services to provide baskets full of holiday food to 300 needy families so that they, too, could have a hearty Thanksgiving dinner, Cleveland.com reports.
Joellen and Richard Swank, who have helped distribute the Thanksgiving baskets in Medina for 10 years, said that although they hand out the baskets, Christ gets the credit for providing the food.
“It’s a way to serve to others,” Joellen told Cleveland.com. “And to show that Jesus loves us all, and that he sees to all our needs.”