The holiday that we celebrate this day in our Nation, has its roots deep within the history of this land. Historians tell us that after the first harvest was completed by the Plymouth colonists in 1621, Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and prayer, shared by all the colonists and neighboring Indians. In 1623 a day of fasting and prayer during a period of drought was changed to one of thanksgiving because the rain came during the prayers. Gradually the custom prevailed in New England of annually celebrating thanksgiving after the harvest. During the American Revolution a yearly day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress.
In 1871 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom, and by the middle of the 19th century many other states had done the same. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln appointed a day of thanksgiving, and since then each president has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, generally designating the fourth Thursday of November as a National holiday.
Over the years this Holiday has naturally endeared itself to the people who call this land their home. At the heart of this celebration stands the meal around which family and friends gather to give thanks for the rich bounty of this Land. God forbid that anyone should tamper with traditional fixings clustered around the big bird.
In an issue of Newsweek magazine, some years ago, I was amused by the following article and would like to share it with you. It was entitled Mom in a Can:
Beware Turkeys Bearing air freshener. Chicago's Fairmont Hotel has its own holiday catering service, promising to cook up a giblet-to-pumpkin-pie Thanksgiving dinner for any host with $ 79 to spare, six to eight people to feed and a desire to spend T-day in pursuits other than basting. Far less tempting, however, is the new pie-scent-in-a-spray-can they threaten to throw in with every order. The idea is to fool guests into thinking you labored over a hot stove all day, stuffing the bird and delumping the gravy. Samples that promised fresh apple and pumpkin pie scents, however, were reminiscent of a perfume counter, not a kitchen!
While this account may be a far cry from what the colonists had in mind, nevertheless, it is the desire to speak our thanks around a meal that continues to be so closely connected to this Holiday celebration.
For us, as Christians, it is only natural that we associate Thanksgiving with a meal. At the center of our life of prayer stands the meal of the Eucharist, that remembers and gives thanks to the one in whom "we live and move and have our being". This moment is called the "great remembrance" for in it, you and I are invited by the Lord to become a people of gratitude for the many ways in which our lives have been enriched by the giver of all good gifts.
As we gather with family friends around our Thanksgiving tables that bear the bounty of this Land, - whether its homemade or not - let us be grateful for the simple gifts that we can so often take for granted:
The gift of our lives in this land of freedom.
The gift of those who love us and whom we love.
The gift of our children who will shape the future of this Land.
The gift of our faith that gathers here in Thanksgiving.
May this Thanksgiving Day be an opportunity for us all to "grow rich in the sight of God" in this land "from sea to shining sea".