Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Day of Grace to Say Thanks

I have no statistics on this, but I’m guessing that Thanksgiving Day is the second most popular American holiday, Christmas being number one. Personally, I have always favored this holiday as it is the one day where we, as a nation, collectively and individually, pause long enough to give thanks to our Creator for His goodness. In some ways it should be called Grace Day, as it is only through God’s grace that we have anything to be thankful for.

91% of Americans will eat Turkey this year, the official bird of Thanksgiving and the fowl Benjamin Franklin wanted as our national symbol. Interesting, Columbus thought the turkey was like a peacock and therefore called the bird “tuka,” which is Tamil, the language in one of the southern sates of India. The average household food bill for this one meal will be $44.61, as our well-fed nation will consume 46 million birds, dressing and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving Day is family time, and in a country where increasingly our individualistic society is ever more disconnected, there is that pull to bring families together, if not to give thanks, at least to watch football.

As my nation leads up to this grandest of all holidays the emphasis, as seems to be case with everything in the U.S., will be on the economy. The focus for Wall Street is not on Thursday but the day after, known as Black Friday. Consumerism is the god of goodness, the deity of prosperity. More attention will be given this year to Black Friday, which is the unofficial beginning of Christmas shopping, than on the God who allows us the freedom, health and wealth to buy the junk we import from China and other developing countries. We’ve come a long way since that first Thanksgiving where our Pilgrim father’s shared a meal with the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth Rock.

The forecast for Thanksgiving in my part of the world is partly cloudy and that pretty much sums up my feelings. The tension will always be to look at the dark side of things, but the setting aside a day to say thanks allows us to see the world is only partly cloudy and we have a lot to be thankful for. Thursday I probably will be asked to say grace over the meal, as I am the official prayer giver at my in-laws house. I can perform this ritual, which is meaningless to some in the family, not through rote liturgy, but because I know it’s God’s grace that allows me the privilege to say thanks.