Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Very Different Holidays

By Alan Smith

I heard about a teacher who asked the children in her class about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. She thought it might be effective to inch toward its meaning by having them playfully correct some wrong ideas.

"Now let me think," she began. "Thanksgiving. That's the day when we think about all the stuff we have. And how we want more things than anybody else has. And how we don't care about anybody but ourselves. And . . ."

"No!" the preschool kids were starting to chorus! "No-o-o!"

Then one little guy in the middle of the pack looked up and chirped, "That's not Thanksgiving, Miss Michelle. That's Christmas!"

As we begin the transition in this country from Thanksgiving to Christmas, there does indeed seem to be a world of difference in the way these two holidays are viewed. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays left which has not been ruined by commercialism. It is still a relatively "pure" time of giving thanks to God for our bountiful blessings. Christmas, on the other hand…….

What should be a time when we are able to take great joy in giving to others (for "it is more blessed to give than to receive", Acts 20:35) and a time to remember the great gift that God has given us through Jesus Christ, has (for many) turned instead to a stressful, hectic time when we are focused on ourselves and our wants.

Allow me to make a suggestion based on an ancient Jewish practice. The Jews had a day set aside, like our day of Thanksgiving, to remember how God had blessed them as a nation and taken care of them in their darkest hour. Purim was a day of "gladness and feasting…and for sending presents to one another." (Esther 9:19).

However, there was one major difference in their practice and ours (though there shouldn't be). Their thanksgiving resulted in gift giving, but not just to friends and family. They had a practice of "sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor." (Esther 9:22).

This holiday season (indeed in our daily life) let's sieze every opportunity to give thanks to God for how He has blessed us. We need to remember that with blessings come responsibilities -- and we have a responsibility to use our blessings to God's glory. In the weeks ahead, may you truly know the joy of using your blessings not merely to make your family happy, but to share with others around you who are in need.

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the White House church of Christ in White House, TN, may be contacted at

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