During my childhood, Thanksgiving Day most definitely, qualified for me as a truly important holiday. It ranked up there with Christmas; it certainly was more important than Halloween. Thanksgiving Day was a time when the family did something very special. We had a most delicious dinner around a large dining room table and we would eat until we were stuffed, we talked and sometimes told funny stories, and would laugh until tears came to our eyes. It was a wonderful time for a child—I still think of Thanksgiving Day as a wonderful time.
We had a little family ritual. My two parents and my three siblings, and sometimes guests (frequently sailors from ships in port) were invited to share the Thanksgiving Day feast, all participated in the ritual. The ritual was this: before grace was offered, we each had to recite to the family and guests what we were thankful for. I remember one particular Thanksgiving Day during World War II, when our dad was away in the Pacific. We had two midshipmen share the feast with us (it was meager that year). My mother began the ritual by being very thankful that no one in our family (aunts, uncles, and cousins), as far as she knew, hand not been injured or killed in the war. We then offered a prayer for an end of the war so our “Daddy” and our guests would not be killed.
This ritual went on even into my adult life. When I would go home with my own family, we would recite to the rest of the family what we were thankful for during the past year.
As much as that memory is warm to me, being thankful is not a ritual. It is an action. Being thankful is being cognizant of what we have regardless of the bounty or the dearth of material wealth we have received.
The gospel lesson for Thanksgiving Day in the Episcopal Eucharistic Lectionary is taken from Matthew (6:25-33. In this gospel lesson Jesus reminded his followers that God cared for them. This lesson also reminds us that God cares for us. It is because God cares, we must be thankful, and worry free. When we understand that God cares, thanksgiving for God’s grace, then, is an essential part of our being.
The material good we may or may not enjoy is not the focus of thanksgiving (or, at least it should not be). It is God’s saving grace for which we must be eternally thankful. The General Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer reminds us that it is God’s “immeasurable love” that we have been blessed by. We have been blessed by the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our prayer is that we have an awareness of God’s unlimited goodness towards us in the gift of Jesus; and, that we will not only serve God with our lips but with our very lives.