“Do people in the UK celebrate Thanksgiving?”
“No, why would we? We have nothing to be thankful for, we’re British.”
While it’s funny, there’s also some element of truth in it. You might think that Thanksgiving is an American holiday, not something for us Brits to celebrate.
But I think this holiday is actually worthwhile for everyone. Yes I’m British and still reside in England, but I’ve learnt a lot about it from my American and Canadian friends. Sometimes it’s nice to have a day dedicated to remembering: to gather together and share things you’re thankful for. It’s one thing I wouldn’t mind the Brits taking on board and doing as well.
As expected, Bert, being American, preached on gratitude this past Sunday (though he claims he doesn’t actually celebrate it that much). He not only focused on gratitude but also its antithesis: complaining.
The negative attitude of complaining seems part and parcel with British culture. I’ve noticed that it appears in small talk amongst strangers (usually about the weather); it comes up with friends and family (venting about their job or life); or even complaining for the sake of complaining (calling customer service lines or writing letters of complaint: I remember having to learn how to write such letters at high school!) It’s true. And I admit, I have a tendency to complain too.
This is a quality we share with the ancient Israelites who came out of Egypt. They complained constantly, mostly to Moses, when they were in the desert wandering for 40 years. They whined about the desert, their circumstances, the manna and even about their leader Moses.
We are very similar to the Israelites. And I’m pretty sure it upsets God when we complain. In essence we are saying that we are dissatisfied or unhappy with what God has provided; it isn’t good enough. Complaining becomes an expression of unbelief toward God’s ways in our life.
Instead, the Bible constantly reminds us to give thanks. A classic example is to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In fact there are many Hebrew words which all mean thanks, as shown here.
With that in mind, perhaps it might be more appropriate to not only have one day of thanksgiving but to give thanks constantly instead. And though saying thanks might just pop out of your mouth from habit (like the word “sorry”), it might be good for us (especially me!) to learn how to say thanks with real meaning. And instead of complaining, we can turn it around into what we are grateful for.
You can listen to the sermon online here.