Monday, November 19, 2012
This week we will celebrate the the holiday of Thanksgiving here in the United States, an occasion that for many involves football, family and lots of food. Whenever human beings celebrate, it tends to involve at least two of those: family and food. Even our family of faith utilizes these, including our celebration of the Eucharist. Eucharist, a word that means thanksgiving. We are a Eucharistic people, that is, a people of thanksgiving. This means that everything that we are about, that we do is in thanksgiving to God. Have you read President Lincoln’s proclamation establishing Thanksgiving? Let’s reflect on that for a moment. The nation was in the midst of the Civil War, a war that killed 2% of the nation’s population. To put that into a current day perspective, do you know someone who is a student at a 4 year private college or university? That group makes up 2% of the current American population. A bit overwhelming, isn’t it? Yet, in the midst of this national tragedy, at a point when the outcome of the War was not known, Lincoln calls upon the country to set aside a day to give thanks to God: “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. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union… …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…” (Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving, October 3, 1863) In the midst of such a crisis, the President was able to list the things that the country should be thankful. The challenge of this civic holiday for us who are a people of thanksgiving is simple: do we take the time the thank God for all we have, for all God has gifted to us including his love and faith, even in our times of crisis?