Friday, November 21, 2008

Campaign to Save Thanksgiving

This is an article I wrote for the Trinity Times two years ago, but it seems appropriate to share it again this year:

I need your help! I’m sure many of you have already heard about the many campaigns to save Christmas. But I need your help on another campaign—the campaign to save Thanksgiving!

Have you noticed that each year the gap between Jack-o-lanterns and Christmas trees gets smaller and smaller? It seems like stores start decorating for Halloween as soon as the back to school rush is over and as soon as we are shutting our doors on the last of the trick-or-treaters, the stores are stocking their shelves with ornaments and candy canes.

And yet of all our secular holidays, Thanksgiving is the most religious. In fact, the idea of a thanksgiving celebration comes not only out of our American heritage but also out of our Judeo-Christian heritage. One of the celebrations that God commanded of the people of Israel was Succoth. Succoth, also known as the feast of the tabernacles, was a celebration to thank God for the harvest. In our Christian tradition, Holy Communion has also been known throughout the years as the Eucharist—or the meal of thanksgiving. Central to every act of worship is the acknowledgement that we are thankful to God for whom God is and for all God has done for us.

In fact, the most remarkable thing about Thanksgiving in America is that the very celebration comes out of some of our darkest times as a nation. Thanksgiving was actually birthed out of the times when we wondered if the dream of the New World would survive.

The first celebration of Thanksgiving came after a horrendous winter in which most of the pilgrims died. The pilgrims were thankful for a new beginning, thankful for the bountiful harvest and thankful for those Native Americans who had taught them the skills they needed to survive in this new environment and ultimately they were thankful to the God as the source of all those blessings.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863. In the midst of the civil war and near the end of a year full of suffering and loss, Abraham Lincoln declared that the nation needed to stop and remember all the blessings that had been given to us. He said, “"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.” Then he went on to recommend that we celebrate the day by confesssing and repenting of our national sins, giving aid and comfort to “widows, orphans, mourners or suffers” and praying to God to “heal the wounds of the nation and restore it.”

[Former] White House press secretary, [the late] Tony Snow, [once] stated in one of his articles that Thanksgiving, not Independence Day, is the defining American holiday. He reminded us that “Every one of our greatest national treasures . . . flow from a surprising source: our ability to give thanks.”

The German Christian mystic, Meister Eichhart, once said, ‘If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.’ That is why Thanksgiving is not only the defining national holiday, but it should also be a very sacred time for us as Christians.

So I would like to invite you to join me in saving Thanksgiving.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to write letters to Wal-Mart or the networks and complain. Rather I’m challenging us all to stop on Thanksgiving Day and say thanks to God for all God’s blessings.

Somewhere in the midst of carving the turkey, sleeping off the huge meal, watching the Macy’s parade and all the football games, and planning which sales you are going to hit on Friday, take a moment to stop and say thanks. You may want to take a moment before you eat your Thanksgiving meal to allow everyone to express things they are thankful for this year. Or you may want to start the day writing down all the blessings you remember from the last year. Or perhaps on Thanksgiving evening, you could light a candle, read Psalm 136, and name all your blessings.

The psalmist reminds us, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” And as we often say in the Cappuccino and Christ service, “God is good all the time and all the time God is good!” Let us stop this Thanksgiving Day and remember why those proclamations are true!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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