This Thanksgiving marks the 86th year of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since 1924, Manhattan has welcomed the ever-growing line of floats, balloons, animals, bands, and more.

When we think “Thanksgiving parade” we automatically think “Macy’s.” But did you know there’s a thanksgiving parade in the Bible?

Long before the Pilgrims shucked corn with the Native Americans, God’s people thanked Him for His blessings. In fact, they went all out.

About 450 years before the birth of Jesus, Nehemiah left Babylon on a mission: to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem. God moved King Artaxerxes to give Nehemiah permission, protection, and supplies. (Note: In 586 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon and the Israelites were carried away into exile. The first group of exiles returned in 538 and the temple was completed in 515 BC.)

Nehemiah's Thanksgiving parade

photo courtesy of

The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem was long and difficult, but the rebuilding project was even harder. The pagan people surrounding Jerusalem opposed the rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah and the other Israelites had to work with one hand and hold a weapon in the other. Half the men worked and the other half guarded them.

But God was with them and after just 52 days, the wall was finished! It was time to celebrate and thank God for His mighty provision.

At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.  The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem… I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on top of the wall to the right… as well as some priests with trumpets… and also Zechariah son of Jonathan… and his associates— with musical instruments… Ezra, the teacher of the Law, led the procession…

The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people… At the Gate of the Guard they stopped…  The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, as well as the priests… with their trumpets… The choirs sang… And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.  Excerpts from Nehemiah 12:27-43, NIV

I would have loved to have seen the Israelite’s parade! Singers, music, and sacrifices. On the ground and on the wall. Men, women, and children. Old and young. The sound of rejoicing was so great it “could be heard far away.” All those who had opposed them knew that the Israelite’s God had done great things.

Macy’s started their Thanksgiving parade in New York City to draw attention to their store. Nehemiah’s “parade” drew attention to their God.

Who – or what – will get the attention on our Thanksgiving? The turkey? Football? Family? I pray our rejoicing draw attention to our God. And wouldn’t it be great if the neighbors heard?

What can we do to make sure God gets the attention He deserves this Thanksgiving?

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