Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday in America. I believe early in school, I was told that it was a time remembering when the people who lived the Americas and Europeans came together to share a meal. As I grew up, I learned of the nation's attempt at recounting how the holiday started. When the United States was still young, George Washington called for an official day of public thanksgiving and prayer. Thomas Jefferson decided that having a national day of Thanksgiving to a higher power was not appropriate due to the separation of church and state. It was not until President Lincoln called for a day of Thanksgiving and prayer set on the last Thursday of November. It was to celebrate a victory in the Civil War. Interestingly, the founding of Thanksgiving was actually a government idea to gather the people to remember and give thanks for a turning point in the war.
To quote Obi-wan Kenobi, "from a certain point of view," we could look at Thanksgiving from a Christian perspective. When we come together in worship, we share the bread and the wine. There are a few terms for the bread and the wine: the Lord's Supper, Communion, and Eucharist. I was taught each of the words for the bread and the wine have a tradition and emphasis behind it. The Lords' Supper focuses on the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples. Communion speaks to sharing a meal with Jesus and the body of followers in the now. Finally, Eucharist listerally means thanksgiving and focuses on the future banquet meal and giving thanks for the future hope. No matter what term you use, I believe the reason for celebrating the bread and wine is a way to celebrate and remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, share in his life and ministry now, and hope for the promised kingdom to come. It is an act of celebrating and remembering. It is a time to be thankful for what did happen, is happening, and will happen. Communion is a great thanksgiving.
So my question becomes, when was the first time someone celebrated the bread and the wine in American history was? Some point to 1565 when Spanish settlers landed in Florida and celebrated their first mass. During the worship service, they celebrated and thanked God for their safe voyage and then shared commnion. (Side Note: some people would also argue that other explorers landed in America and recount offering prayers and psalms of thanksgiving to God long before 1565.) All in all, I think from a Christian perspective, we can say whenever we have gathered as a body of believers, no matter the denomination, to celebrate communion, we offer up our prayers of thanksgiving to God.
We as Christians have been celebrating thanksgiving long before it was popular. I believe, as Christians, we can celebrate this holiday, but not in remembering the turning points of war or safe voyages. Instead, we celebrate with a posture of thanksgiving broadly to God the Father and Jesus Christ for there salvation and redemption of humanity and creation, and specifically for the little and big people and events in our lives within the last year. There is much to be thankful for because our God is an abundant God.
I hope this has been an interesting adventure for you. I hope that as we go into the holidays this has helped you to refocus and bring Jesus into our lives and into our holidays.