Should We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. (Psalm 100:4)

Thanksgiving Day is a secular holiday, and thus it is technically not part of what we call the “Church Year.”  Is it then wrong to celebrate Thanksgiving Day in church, gathering for a worship service?  On the contrary, it is quite appropriate to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving.  Consider four reasons why worshiping on Thanksgiving Day is appropriate.

First, Thanksgiving Day is recognized as a national holiday.  As citizens we appropriately celebrate this national holiday, and even more so, we as Christians know it is not a day to simply be thankful, but we can show the world that it is a day to direct thanks and praise to the One who is the source of all blessings—our Triune God.  There is no better way to do this than in a worship service.

Second, many—especially those in farming communities—appropriately view Thanksgiving as a harvest festival.  When one considers the “Church Year” of God’s Old Testament people, practically every festival—marked by gathering to worship in Jerusalem—was linked to farming.  Whether you are a farmer or not, we all need the food harvested by our nation’s farmers.  Let us then gather like our Old Testament siblings and celebrate the harvest with a thanksgiving worship service.

Third, we have reasons for thanksgiving that go far beyond celebrating the harvest.  We gather to give thanks to God for His indescribable gifts in Christ Jesus.  We gather in worship to thank God for our eternal salvation, procured by our Savior’s substitutionary life, death and resurrection; and distributed by Christ’s Church through His Word and Sacraments. Of course we do this every Sunday, but let us show the world on Thanksgiving Day both the primary Reason (Jesus) to give thanks and the sole Mediator (Jesus) for all our thanksgiving.

Fourth, one activity central to worship is the celebration of Holy Communion.  An ancient word for Holy Communion is Eucharist, and this word literally means Thanksgiving.  Thus the Lord’s Supper and the liturgy surrounding it are appropriately thanksgiving-oriented.  Though it is not essential to gather for Holy Communion on Thanksgiving Day, yet it certainly is highly appropriate to joyfully celebrate the Eucharist on this national holiday.

So let us gather for worship on Thanksgiving Day, showing the world that we really know why and how to celebrate Thanksgiving.