A Season of Peace & Gratitude
I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and that you were able to experience gratitude and togetherness with friends and family.
I've shared this in past years, but it's become an annual tradition for me, so I'm sharing it again with some edits.
Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn't declared a national holiday until 1863, during the height of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that it be celebrated on the final Thursday of November?
This would be changed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 when he moved the holiday up a week during the Great Depression to boost retail sales. Eventually, after much pressure, he moved it to the fourth Thursday in November 1941.
Funny--back then, people were outraged that the holiday would be a precursor to shopping. Alas. Times sure have changed. Black Friday sales already started a few weeks ago!
The only positive thing about Black Friday becoming more spread out and primarily online is that there aren't as many stampedes at the crack of dawn at Wal-Marts around the country.
For this, we can also be thankful.
As I was reading through Lincoln's original proclamation for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I found the following plea that he made to all Americans (Northerners and Southerners alike), imploring them to ask God to:
“...commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Lincoln's words have a relevant message for us almost 160 years after he wrote them.
Our nation is divided, and some might say we are at war with ourselves. The political unrest, sharp division, and the violence we have seen in the many recent mass shootings have left too many "widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers." The wounds of our country need to be healed.
Additionally, the world around us seems out of joint as well. Millions have been displaced by the war in Ukraine, which still wages on even though it's all but disappeared from our news cycles.
And now, the violence and war between Israel and Gaza is on our minds. We pray for peace, and we grieve the innocents who have become casualties in a conflict that seems to have no resolution.
And yet, despite everything, the spirit of Lincoln's proclamation was that every American take the time to gather with friends and family, find space for peace, and return thanks to God for all of the good in their lives.
Now more than ever, we must embrace the spirit with which the Thanksgiving holiday was created. Lincoln meant it as a day for healing and restoration, a re-centering on God as the giver of every good gift.
I also understand that many of our First Nation/Native American siblings are grieved by the history connected to the Thanksgiving legends and lore, and I acknowledge that, too.
This is why we should reframe this season as we enter Advent next week. Let it be a season when we make a deal with our relatives not to argue about politics. I know that will be challenging for some of us!
Take the time instead to share the things we are grateful for together. Find common ground.
Let it be a season when we also are mindful that in our plenty, we often can overlook those who are in want, and we need to have the mind of Christ toward all people, regardless of who they are.
Let it be a season when we find ways to laugh, love, and live with friends and family, making up for all the time we've spent alone or apart in recent years.
Let it be a season filled with gratitude for the presence of God in our lives, no matter what might be going on in the world around us. May we discover new paths to healing and wholeness and even (dare I say it) unity with one another.
May this season of giving and receiving, gratitude and thanksgiving be a season of blessing to you and yours. And as we prepare to enter into Advent, may your hearts be turned toward the promise of a new world filled with peace, hope, and joy.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.