Thanksgiving is upon us and is the beginning of the time of year groaning with gatherings, food, and planning. I am struck by the fact that such events take place at the darkest time of the year. It is as though, surrounded by night, we have special need of fellowship to remind us we are not alone in this great universe.
In England, where I was born, late fall is also the time of Harvest Festivals in churches. As a young person, I remember churches filled with wheat, fruit, vegetables, and flowers alongside huge loaves of bread made in the shape of sheaves. Parishes gathered to give thanks to God and distribute the bounty to the poor. I suspect our Thanksgiving is a distant relative of those events. Those early settlers emerged from an essentially rural society. The ingathering of crops marked not only the end of the farming year, but an occasion of gratitude that there was provision of enough food to last until the days lengthened and warmed again.
Gratitude, thanksgiving, is a grace-filled gift. It is one of the few forms of prayer we cannot fake. Moments when we actually experience being blessed are precious because they are the moments when we are in right relationship with our lives and with God. Thanksgiving may happen in unexpected ways – a kind gesture from a friend, knowing forgiveness when we have behaved badly, recognizing we have received more than we deserve, discovering we have let go of an old resentment, and on innumerable other occasions.
As we gather at our various tables this Thanksgiving, remember to ask God for the grace of gratitude for your life and those of others. In the words of the General Thanksgiving from our Book of Common Prayer we say:
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
The Rev. Susan N. Eaves