What’s the Relationship Between Thanksgiving and Worship?

Nov 22, 2022 | 0 comments

I bet you have a favorite family holiday. For me, American Thanksgiving has always been a favorite family holiday for many reasons. 

—It brings together all that we love most – family, faith and feasting.

—We traditionally run the Turkey Trot the morning of, to justify the feasting.

—Fall means the end of our long summer.

—It’s difficult to commercialize an attitude!

One of our most memorable Thanksgiving holidays was our first year living in Tokyo, Japan. We wondered: “How do we celebrate Thanksgiving since it is a work day? How can we get a turkey?
Can we afford a turkey? Do we try to replicate the American experience, ignore the holiday, or recreate the holiday to help us forget how homesick we are feeling?”

Like so many other traditions from home, we sifted through what was culture and what was
important to our faith. We realized it was the essence of Thanksgiving we wanted to keep, the
attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness for the many ways we experienced God at work and His blessings – both in small and big ways.

I’ve come to realize giving thanks is a posture all year through – not just for one day because
thankfulness is major theme throughout the Bible.

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with

thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30)

This became especially apparent in a season of loss – of loved ones and my own health. Rather
than a “victor” I felt like a weak “survivor.” After a discussion with a friend, Becki Ulmer, who
also was sick with a chronic illness, we co-wrote the song, “Thank You, Lord,” during a season of surrender to the circumstances that were out of our control. We each faced a decision. Give in to the feelings of despair, or similar to a lament, invite God into the tender places and remember His sovereign goodness.

On a Sunday in April, 2020, when our church was closed due to the mysterious illness known as COVID, we invited a couple of close friends to gather at our home for house church. We
worshipped together and I shared the newly written song, “Thank You, Lord.” That memory serves as a time-stamp of a season with so many uncertainties, but with the assurance that even then, we could choose a posture of being thankful.

There is glory in Your smile

There is hope in every trial

All Your promises are true

And Your love will see me through

…I will thank you Lord.

When we gather with our children and their families around the Thanksgiving table, we now incorporate a song of worship. Along with the feasting, we sing a beloved hymn called the Doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above Ye heavenly hosts

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


“… but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father.” (Ephesians 5:18-20, emphasis mine)

My hope and prayer this year is that wherever you are in the world and whether or not this is a formal season of thanksgiving, thanksgiving is one of the ways you worship God. I’ve included the song “Thank You, Lord” so you can spend a few minutes combining thanksgiving and worship.

Links for Thank You, Lord on youtube:

and on Vimeo

For more information about The Invitation Project: Inviting You Into A Lifestyle of Worship (link: https://theinvitationproject.com) or Joy Beless (link: https://joybeless.org/). Lyric videos available on YouTube Channel or Vimeo channel so you can focus on worshipping without worrying about finding songs.

Joy Beless

Spiritual Director, founder of The Invitation Project, Worshiper




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