The time has come for Norman Rockwell, for the gathering, the feasting, the football and I begin to realize that with the climate of the country being what it is we’re likely to lose the holiday we call Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving implies a God to whom we should be thankful, and political correctness won’t tolerate that for long; someone might be offended. But the truth is that such an eventuality, while it will be sad, will not affect the heart that is truly grateful and aware that God has given all, everything – here and in heaven. Thanksgiving is an attitude, not just a holiday.
We need to be giving thanks for both the temporal blessings with which we Americans are so blessed, and for the spiritual gifts that are so freely available to all who desire a relationship with our Creator. Let’s look at the earthly first:
I can’t think about this issue without the words of great writers coming to mind –
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town deals with gratitude and appreciation of the everyday things in our lives. His heroine, Emily Webb, dies in childbirth and is given an opportunity (by the stage manager – it’s a strange play) to go back and relive a day in her life. She chooses her 12th birthday and as she watches herself live that day she comes to realize that she missed most of it, failed to appreciate, to even notice the blessings that filled her existence. She finally says goodbye to “clocks ticking, and Momma’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths… and sleeping and waking up…”
Simple things, these – coffee, new-ironed dresses, and sleep, but she suffers such pain realizing how little she had cherished her life that she begs to go back to her grave.
Do you remember the song Maria sings in The Sound of Music? "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,/ Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,/ Brown paper packages tied up with strings;/ These are a few of my favorite things.”
Lists like these have always fascinated me partly because they come so close to my favorites, but also because they remind me to notice, and noticing reminds me to be thankful, and thankfulness calls me to joy.
One of the best prefab gratitude lists is a poem by the British poet Rupert Brooke entitled The Great Lover. He begins that poem with quite a flowery and passionate introduction, but then he gets down to listing all the things he has cherished. Read through this and look for similarities with the things you treasure ---
These I have loved: White plates and cups, clean-gleaming, Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust; /Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust/ Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food; /Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood; /And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers; /And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours, /Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon; /Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon /Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss/ Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is/ Shining and free; blue-massing clouds, the keen/ Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;/The benison of hot water; furs to touch;/ The good smell of old clothes; and other such./ The comfortable smell of friendly fingers, /Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers/ About dead leaves and last year's ferns/... Dear names, /And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames; /Sweet water's dimpling laugh from tap or spring; /Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing; /Voices in laughter, too; and body's pain, /Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train; /Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam/ That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;/ And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold/ Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould; /Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew; /And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new; /And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass; /All these have been my loves. And these shall pass…
Let us feel challenged to come up with a list of this many things we love, -- anything lovely, or comforting, or delicious; things mysterious, distant, gone; things made by human hands, or by the hand of God; thoughts and imaginations, fragrances and friendships, fun and flatteries. What do we love about being here, now?
Then let us contemplate the things above. We Christians have a great deal to be grateful for beyond our creation and the creation of our home-away-from-home. We have the free gift of salvation – note the word free. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Just “believe.” Is Jesus Christ God? Is He also man? Did He successfully pay for all the sins of the whole world? Did He rise from the dead? If you answer yes to these questions, you believe and I’ll see you in heaven someday.
So, we have the love of God to be thankful for, and then the lovely people and loving pets, and the love God has taught us to feel for the unlovely.
We will gather with family this week, as we have our whole lives, and remember those who have gone on and celebrate the living loves of our lives. We will break bread, as a nation, in the company of those who matter the most to us – let us fully appreciate that blessing.
We have the Word of God to be thankful for – in fact, we have language in general for which to give thanks; it makes all things possible. We have our guardian angels for which to be grateful; I know I wear mine out – the narrowly avoided collision, the bad fall that miraculously causes no injury, the sudden awareness of danger.
And we have purpose. For that I am most thoroughly thankful. So many of us live in this frightening and difficult world without any idea of why we’re here. As a Christian I know that each day I wake what I do will in some small way matter, that my simplest daily activities are worth doing and doing well. It brings me joy to know that. It brings me joy to write this, to know I can, to know you will take the time to read it.
In fact, all that I’ve mentioned here gives me joy and for that I am filled with gratitude and praise.
Let all things now living, a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.