Christians do lay claim to one act of sacrifice on God's part, namely the sacrifice of his son Jesus. If the atonement was indeed necessary in order to displace God's wrath from us to his son, then this could be seen as a sacrifice worthy of our thanksgiving, a gift that (unlike creation) did require sweat. Yet Christians have been divided since the advent of Christianity as to why this sacrifice was necessary and what it actually accomplished. Outsiders like me are puzzled how God can be considered omnipotent if he was unable simply to forgive us (as he enjoins us to forgive each other) without orchestrating the murder of his innocent son.
But I digress. We don't know whether God exists, let alone whether he's done anything that required sacrifice worthy of our thanksgiving. But people do exist, and the sacrifices made by many of them are worthy of our thanks. I am thankful for my mother and father who selflessly changed my diapers at the cost of their time and olfactory bliss. I am thankful for the financial sacrifices they made to feed, house, clothe and educate me. I am thankful that they trained me to work and to be respectful and kind. I am thankful for their patience and affection toward me, even when I was unlovable. I am thankful for my devoted wife, who has remained faithful to me and cherished me even after I abandoned the faith in God we once shared. I am thankful for all her sacrifices to make our house a home and to provide opportunities for our children to flourish. I am thankful that my three children choose to relate to wife and me the joys and struggles of their teenage existence.
I am thankful to my childrens' teachers, who take a lower salary that what they could earn in the corporate world to educate the next generation. I'm grateful to my children's soccer coaches, who devote countless hours to improve the skills of their players while accepting little or no monetary compensation.
I am thankful for the perseverance and insight of Alexander Fleming, who discovered the miracle of penicillin, without which I would most likely not have survived my bout with double pneumonia in 2001. The same goes for Chinese Dr. Tu Youyou, who in 1972 discovered artemisin in the leaves of the annual wormwood plant, without which I might not have lived past my three infections of malaria as a missionary in Africa. I am thankful for all the scientists and inventors who, through much sweat, tears, and bursts of insight, persevered to bequeath to the world all manner of devices and procedures to make life better: air conditioning, mass farming, refrigeration, automobiles, airplanes, computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, hot showers, pain relievers, drugs, surgery, the Internet, and much, much more.
And I am thankful for the Enlightenment founders of our great country--men like Paine, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison, who launched a bold experiment to found a nation based not on the divine right of kings, nor on the authority of a church, but on the rights of humans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am thankful for those--believers and unbelievers alike--who fought to extend these rights to all who live in our country--to all races, to slaves, and to women. I am thankful to those who have sacrificed life and limb to defend our freedoms over the centuries--to those who have fought against tyranny, oppression, and naked aggression. I am even thankful for those in government office who maintain the public order, who put away criminals, who uphold justice for the oppressed, and who provide a safety net for those who fall on hard times or who are unable through no fault of their own to provide for themselves. And I am thankful for charities and churches who contribute to this same cause. In sum, thanks to all who sacrifice to make this world a better place!