There's more to Thanksgiving than turkey, or football

As I think back on a year that is rapidly coming to a close, I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

This year has been filled with so many positive changes in my life. My wife and I bought our first house in March. Not long afterward, my third nephew was born.

Earlier this month, we welcomed my new sister-in-law into the family when my brother got married. This year has been an amazing ride, and I am so thankful to God for His countless blessings.

Still, I can't help wondering why, when many people talk about why they look forward to Thanksgiving, they focus on aspects of the holiday which are not nearly as important.

Do not misunderstand me. Watching football games with family is great, and I know I'm going to do my share of that on Thanksgiving Day.

I've already eaten ridiculous amounts of food at two holiday gatherings in the last week -- one with my co-workers and one at my church -- and I know I'm going to do the same on Thursday.

I love spending time with my growing family, and I'm looking forward to meeting some of my wife's relatives for the first time this week.

All those things are wonderful and, if they are put in their proper context, can make the Thanksgiving holiday more enjoyable. But, there is more to the occasion than food and football.

I believe Thanksgiving Day has been cheapened over the years, in such a way that detracts from its real meaning.

When most people think about the holiday, they talk about "Turkey Day," a parade, and a bunch of sweaty guys in helmets. Although we might recognize that it is a time when we should express gratitude for what we have, we seem to forget who it is we are to be thankful to.

Thanksgiving is not just a matter of giving an obligatory nod to God for the family members sitting around the dinner table, or the food they bring. It is a time specifically set aside for us to remember how He sent His son to redeem us from our sins, enabling His children to be with him in Heaven even though we could never deserve it.

Yet, on Thanksgiving Day, this concept seems to get tossed aside faster than you can say, "Pass the potatoes." Before you know it, the holiday is over, and all we have to show for it is a full stomach, without giving much thought to the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

If we would truly make this idea the focus of our Thanksgiving, there's no way we would able to limit our gratitude to one day a year. We would care much less about how the turkey will turn out, and the scoreboard on the television would be the least of our concerns.

We all have a lot to be thankful for -- including our family, our friends and our freedom as a nation -- and it would be wrong to neglect that on Thursday.

But, to neglect God and His mercy would make Thanksgiving pointless altogether.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.