BY REV. DR. VAHAN H. TOOTIKIAN
Thanksgiving Day is an American national festival of thanksgiving, first celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, and proclaimed annually by the President of the United States on the fourth Thursday in November.
The roots of the Thanksgiving celebration are deep within the Bible. The Hebrew people observed a thanksgiving holiday called Sukkoth, as a reminder of God’s protection and care during their sojourn in the Sinai dessert on their way to the Promised Land.
In the same spirit, the Pilgrims observed their first Thanksgiving by counting their blessings after they had settled in America. They had a harsh winter; their colony lost almost half of its population. In spite of their hardship and loss, they expressed their gratitude to the all-loving and ever-caring God.
Thanksgiving is an important holiday. It is an important reminder to us to be grateful for all of the blessings we enjoy every day. It is needed because some of us have short memories and take so many of our blessings for granted.
Personally, I thank God for Who He is, and for loving us as much as we are loved. It is so easy to take God for granted. Even though we are commanded to love God, we are not arrested and thrown into jail if we don’t. Few of the penalties for disobeying this prime commandment are very evident to the casual or callous person. But because I have come to know and worship God, I thank Him for being God.
I also thank God for Jesus Christ and for the opportunity to receive salvation. Jesus volunteered to sacrifice His life for my salvation. I don’t deserve what He has done for me, but I am grateful that He did it anyway, out of His love for me.
Furthermore, I thank God for the Holy Scriptures and the lessons they teach me about how I ought to live. The knowledge that I gain from the Scriptures is very important, because it seems that life throws a “pop quiz” every day. If we have not studied for these exams, we fail miserably.
Additionally, I thank God for the Holy Spirit and His ability to help me reach beyond myself in being obedient to God’s will, as I come to know Him. It seems as though I am too weak to handle certain situations by myself. But thanks to the infilling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that responsibility is made easier and even joyful.
I thank God for my family, friends, colleagues and my church. I am blessed to have been surrounded by some of God’s most loving people, who lift up my hands in the serving I do. I thank God for each one He has put in my life.
I thank God that Thanksgiving Day is also a reminder and an opportune time to display our appreciation by availing ourselves of the opportunity of thanking people who, by being themselves, enrich our lives. There are friends whom one can depend no matter what happens. What a grand time Thanksgiving Day is to thank them. I know that when such a use of appreciation is practiced, two people grow.
I thank God that He constantly reminds me that I must share His blessings with others. One of the names of the Sacrament of Communion is “Eucharist.” It means Thanksgiving. It refers to the act of Jesus, who, taking bread on that first Maundy Thursday, gave thanks. But as part of the thanks, He broke the bread and shared it with all who were present. Real thanksgiving is forever thanks-sharing!
In our world today, there are fellow human beings here and in distant lands who are hungry in body and in spirit, or both. Our displaced compatriots of Artsakh are in dire need of help. With our financial contribution and moral support we can reassure them that we stand together with them in this time of need. As we give thanks and as we break bread around our family tables, it can be an added blessing to us and to them if thanksgiving spills over into thanks-sharing, and our thankful hearts become a cause of thanksgiving in their hearts.