As we enter into November, we here in the United States begin to prepare for what may be MY favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. But what are we being thankful for and how are we being thankful through our celebration of this holiday.
Thanksgiving, occurring in the fall, has some it’s most natural roots in those being thankful for the harvest that will provide throughout the harsh winters to come. In doing some research this morning, I learned something about a Jewish holiday that Jesus would have been very familiar with as would have been the pilgrims in our own history here in what would become the United States.
The Festival of Sukkot, perhaps better known as the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles, was an eight-day celebration that occurred in the fall, similar to our own Thanksgiving (well perhaps not the eight days, but the original celebration between the pilgrims and native Americans lasted 3 days). Sukkot draws it’s inspiration from Leviticus 23:33-34;
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘ On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days.” – Leviticus 23:33-34
Falling after Yom Kippur, which was a more somber time of repentance, Sukkot was a much more joyful holiday. Now that there sins were forgiven, they celebrated! Which brings me to my first point.
Be Thankful – Our sins are forgiven!
We have something far greater to be Thankful for than a great harvest, or a new job, or family and friends. We have the redemption that comes along with faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us. His death on the cross cleansed us of our sins in God’s eyes and has allowed us to come into the presence of God, something the Jews could never do. We have much to be thankful for, but that alone is key to it all!
Part of the Jewish festival was the building of Sukkot, or small huts. These were meant to represent the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in while wandering the desert. Typically they would be built out of branches, leaves or whatever would be on hand. Building these were a reminder of God’s provision and protection. It also reminds us of how dependent we are on him. This insecure dwelling place, shows that true security comes not from our our hands, but from the provision of God. And this brings about point two, something we tend to forget in our day and age.
Be Thankful – But do so in humility.
Humility is a key point we tend to forget about being thankful. Look at what the words thank you express. “Thank you” not only express the joy of the help that was received, but it also is an acknowledgment that the help came from an outside source. We don’t say “Thank me!” When we are giving thanks to God, whether through private prayer or in celebration of our holiday, we should remember that it is God we are thanking and it is his provision that we are thankful for.
Humility is often construed in our day as a negative, but in fact it’s not. CS Lewis once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Being humble in our Thanksgiving is the realization that we in fact did not cause the bounty that God has provided, it was all God.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I do love the food and fun fellowship you have, but I think what I love even more is it causes me to reflect on myself, my life and the bounty that God has provided throughout the year. It reminds me of how good God is, that he provides even when I forget to thank him, even when I’m less than humble and try to take the credit, or even when I completely ignore Him and give the credit to someone or something else. He provided the ultimate reason to be thankful. Something we could never do ourselves.