Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving holiday, many people will gather with friends and family to celebrate a big meal, share a glass of wine, maybe watch football, and enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie. Much of the lore surrounding Thanksgiving is based on a variant of myths based upon early settlers to these shores. The actual holiday we know as Thanksgiving was officially proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

The president invited the entire nation (north and south) to stop hostilities for a day to offer thanks for our abundance, and to ponder the realization that in spite of the atrocities of war, the country continued to flourish:

“Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverance and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Not bad for a non churchgoer who rarely aligned himself with any of the strains of organized religion. In the 250 years since President Lincoln created the national holiday of Thanksgiving, we, as a nation, have been at war. At times we have been at war with other nations, and we have been at war with ourselves. We have clashed over race, voting rights, gender equality, polarizing ideologies, and the demoralizing ravages of income marginalization.

In the original proclamation, we are asked to remember that all things come from God. We are reminded that all of us come from the blessings bestowed which springs up from the earth. We may think we actually own things, but in reality we do not, and given half a chance the earth will engulf, and enfold things we imagine is ours, using it as mulch for a new creation. A “spiritual but not religious” president asked us to stop for a moment and honor the giver of all gifts, and to be thankful.

This year as Thanksgiving falls on the Jewish commemoration of Hanukkah, it would be good to view the Festival of Lights as another gift of God’s abundance when one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight days. Though the holiday of Hanukkah means “dedication”, the miracle of the oil is a theological statement that abundance comes from God, and is a gift of God’s grace.

Each Sunday some churches celebrate Holy Eucharist. For those who may not be aware, Eucharist means “Thanksgiving”, with the act of setting the blessed meal apart making it holy. Each Sunday, those who partake, experience a thanksgiving meal when heaven and earth are joined as one so that all present can experience a meal where all are welcome. A thanksgiving where all may experience what it might feel like if all people were fed, and content, where all people had enough.  Then, after the meal is consumed, and after thanks has been offered, people are sent out into the world filled with the knowledge that we, as a people transformed, can make a difference in the world around us.

This year, many people (maybe without knowing it)  experience a home Eucharist of sorts, and by the fact that the meal is shared with family of friends, and maybe a blessing offered, makes it holy as this meal is traditionally set apart from other meals we have day in and day out.

As we count our blessings for what WE have received, give pause to offer thanks to God for the continued nourishment poured out from the earth, and it’s rich abundance. Borrow a hint from our Jewish friends who weekly offer this blessing on their Shabbat when they say, “Praised are you, Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth,” (from the earth being the main point.)

So, maybe this year start your meal by adding your own acknowledgement saying, “Praise to you, our God, sovereign of the universe who brings forth (add your own words) from the earth.” (and yes, you can add Football).

Happy Thanksgiving.