It’s my favorite week of the year. THANKSGIVING! For me it’s still a pure holiday, which hasn’t been soiled by a muddy culture bent on me-ism and consumerism. It’s amazing how we as Americans tend to wrap up the story of the Pilgrims and the birth of Jesus in a warm, fuzzy Disney-like blanket of romanticism. The word romanticism used in this context speaks of making a story less harsh and “real” than it was in reality. Be assured the Pilgrims didn’t eat their Thanksgiving meal in a warm and toasty atmosphere while watching football and eating pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert. Be assured the nativity scene displayed in our comfortable homes is not reflective of the real conditions that Mary and Joseph faced in Bethlehem.
This past week all of us have watched with horror as wildfires have destroyed property, communities, and lives in California. The stories are real, and there’s no way to romanticize this hellish inferno of devastation. To some degree, if truth be told, the conditions the Pilgrims faced on that first Thanksgiving – with disease, hunger, and death at their doorstep – better reflect the hardship hundreds are facing in California rather than the historical fairytale that is often portrayed in history books.
My goal for this week’s reflection isn’t to make you feel depressed, guilty, or shamed because our Thanksgiving experience is far different than the one the early settlers experienced. The purpose is to point to the incredible toughness and tenacity that both the early American families and the Holy Family modeled with endurance and ingenuity. Think about what it took to face the incredible challenges that the Pilgrims faced, in a new land, filled with the unknown and their lack of… the list is endless. These amazing people were forced to use their creative imaginations to negotiate the obstacles that threatened their survival. Be assured the President didn’t declare their situation a disaster area and send in supplies and support. It was them and the elements, and many of them won the battle to not give up. Others were not as fortunate, and they didn’t survive the incredible odds.
Here’s the nugget of truth. The best way out of the wilderness of adversity is by traversing the thanksgiving and praise route. Giving thanks in the face of all things is the key to enduring hardship. The reason is that a grateful heart focuses on the glass half-full and not the half-empty one. Perhaps you’re reading this Thanksgiving meditation, and in reality you would feel like a hypocrite if you gave thanks to God as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Perhaps you have a family member who died, or your marriage died, or your job died, or your pet died, or your dreams died, or it feels like your faith died. Lay aside the garment of despondency and put on the garment of praise. Go ahead, lift up your head, look up to Heaven, and through the tears and frustration and disappointment and anger and deep sadness, turn your eyes upon Jesus. I can’t promise you that your problems will be solved, but I can assure you that you will sense a presence that isn’t experienced in an atmosphere of negativity.
So, before I leave you with a final thought let me challenge you that if you are aware of someone who is facing the coming holy days or holidays alone or in less than tolerable conditions, why not give them a call or pay them a visit? Bring along some flowers or something that will say to them, “You are not alone”. Here’s my last thought. The source of one of my very biggest blessings this year, for which I am grateful, is YOU. My Love Akron Family is one of my most treasured gifts.
Enjoy the family, friends, food, and football but most of all, celebrate your faith in the One who is the giver of all that is good, God, our Heavenly Father. Happy Thanksgiving!