“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? “ Mark 8:36-37
The year was 1863. Abraham Lincoln was President. Strife ruled. The nation was at war with itself. The landscape by most visionaries was bleak and dreary. The nation seemed to have lost its bearings and its very soul. Being thankful under these conditions was seemingly impossible. The nation urgently needed to mend its fraying fabric.
Under these dire conditions Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday in November as a national holiday. His intent was to coalesce a nation of diverse cultures and individuals into a cohesive whole by remembering the origin of its birth. This year Americans will celebrate the 157th anniversary of Thanksgiving.
In 1620 pilgrims departed from Defts-Haven, searching for a new land with an ephemeral idea of freedom. They had no idea what they would face in the quest. As if the hardships of the voyage were not enough to deter them, what they saw at landfall must have made them question their sanity altogether.
There, looming before them in the stark winter stood a harsh land with a weather-beaten face. It appeared to them a country full of woods and thickets, a place full of untamed beasts and wild men. It had an ominous and savage hue. Such is the nature of the unknown…wild, fearful but full of promise.
It was up to these pilgrims to carve out their dreams and visions. They neither expected nor received the benefits of ease in the process. For having left their homes, having said goodbye to their families and friends, they said goodbye to the old life and searched for a better home.
We who read this today are benefitting from the sacrifices of these visionaries. We can ask ourselves these questions: Under what tyranny would we now be living if not for the perseverance of these intrepid travelers? How would our destiny have unfolded?
Fortunately, we have the answers. Living in America is a blessing of untold and incalculable dimensions. Read the news if you don’t believe this!
Several years ago on this date our family and friends sat in a Methodist Church in the small town of my youth. We gathered there to say a final goodbye to our mother. My nephew recalled the influence she had upon his life. He synthesized it based on his annual visits for Thanksgiving. He recalled pulling into the driveway of his grandmother’s home. The first thing he saw was her face in the kitchen window, welcoming him with a smile.
The soul of an American Thanksgiving also has a face. It’s seen in the Rockwell-blended faces of families, merged together into a national tapestry. Each face represents a precious memory, of a home and a secure place where families can thrive.
The blessings of national unity are too broad to enumerate. But the collective voice of Thanksgiving blends them together at every table where food is served, where laughter is heard and where love is shared. The soul of being American is once again revived on this memorable day.
Today, the world is a dangerous place. It’s fractious, filled with secular pursuits, religious divisions and seethes with national rivalries. Our country itself is not immune from its own fractured diversity. The horror of continuous news reveals this on a daily basis.
Yet in spite of this, America continues to stand, strong in the collective unity under which it was founded…established by a beneficent God for the purpose of freedom. A continuous remembrance of this fact is what Thanksgiving is all about.
Today began sunny on the coast, but clouds are gathering for another storm. In the front yard a squirrel sits on its hind quarters, gnawing on acorns. It seems to smile as it feasts on the prodigious crop furnished by the oaks.
America has endured many storms. Covid is our latest. It will weather more. But, like the squirrel, we can take comfort in the fact that a gracious, Almighty God desires to furnish us with untold blessings. Our collective soul will continue to flourish as long as we remember the Source of these blessings.
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Thank you, Abraham Lincoln, for the gift of this holiday. Thank you, God, for blessing the soul of America another year. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
November 24, 2020