On Thursday, November 22, we celebrate another Thanksgiving. It is a time that many of us might celebrate with joy as the family comes together from near and far to eat ourselves into oblivion and gather around the television for endless parades and games of football. At the same time, there are many of us who find Thanksgiving a time when at the end of a difficult year, we take solace in what little we might have. Others of us are separated from family and friends by long distances, and some with bullets and rockets flying over their head.
So I think that we should remember back to the foundations of our national holiday, and the foundations of our Christian faith. The early tradition as established by newcomers to the shores of a brave new world, which we know as America today, was not a family event. It was a community event.
It was a gathering of a community that had braved the waters and storms of the Atlantic to seek a place where they could start afresh and practice their faith in the open without persecution. It was a community that was facing the prospect of a hard winter ahead of them, a winter of which they had no experience. It was a community that through the giving kindness of neighbors who were native to the land aided them in planting crops that would give them food for the coming winter, and who helped them stock up and find a means to provide for themselves in the difficult time ahead. It was a community where some had successful farms, and others were not so successful. Some found a bounty of wild game, and others did not – yet still they shared with each other. It was a community that recognized that all things came from the hand of a God far greater than themselves.
Looking back into our Christian foundation which reaches into the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that thanksgiving is not a family event, but a community event. Joel 2:23-24 is but one example:
23 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
This Thanksgiving, while enjoying our own family traditions, let us think like our Father in Heaven, let us think larger, let us think how can we give thanks as a community. I think there are many examples out there for us to follow and participate in. One of them being the effort by the Salvation Army and First Presbyterian Church downtown Winchester. They have a 20 year tradition of remembering thanksgiving is a community event, inviting strangers and family and friends together. Another is C-CAP in conjunction with its many volunteers from our faith communities that together provided more than 600 meals for those in need in our areas.
So thanks be to God. Let Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven