Nov 20, 2011
Thanksgiving. Let’s see… that’s the one between Halloween and Christmas. “Turkey Day!” The day before the big sales. Autumn decorations – think yellows and oranges. Football! Those big games out in the crisp air, or – one after another – on TV all day long.
Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was a day of observance, set aside to thank God for His gifts. Now, the mention of God is an indictable offense in public schools, as proscribed as teaching that Christian Pilgrims gathered to give thanks for bountiful harvests. The closest children can be to a spiritual aspect of this “holiday” (holy-day?) outside the fortress-walls of their homes and churches, still, is a vague acknowledgment of Mother Nature. Thank… who? For… what?
So it is that Thanksgiving has become one more holiday in an annual American cycle where every month has the possibility of a long weekend built in (August is the slacker). But I invite us to step back a few steps, even a few years. Let us think about Thanksgiving.
When the Pilgrims had their feast, and prayers, it was indeed to raise praises to God for peace with the natives, for establishments of their communities, for a bountiful harvest. When George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving, it was to bless God for the successful Revolution and for the foundations of a new nation. When Abraham Lincoln issued the first of the unbroken string of presidential proclamations in 1863, it was to ask forgiveness of God, and to thank Him for protection through a Civil War. In a Thanksgiving Proclamation of Theodore Roosevelt, he said: “The things of the body are good; the things of the intellect better; but best of all are the things of the soul,” and he besought Americans to respond to God’s gifts with gratitude and to fight for righteousness.
Without disregarding any of those ideals and values (contemporary culture is doing that, very well, by itself) I wonder if we can step back even further, so to speak. And thank God for more than harvests and prosperity and victories. Think about it – we thank God for Jesus (um, that’s our Christmas compartment); we thank God that Jesus died for our sins (check: Easter)… and so on.
Surely we don’t need a special day to thank God for being God (but Thursday will do), or to thank Him for things we don’t often think about.
This week I received a stunning video, produced by the group TED (Technology, Education, Design), forwarded to me by my friend Mike Atkinson. It features the imagist Alexander Tsiaras, and the title is Conception to Birth. Tsiaras has photographed, filmed, and recreated the development of a baby in the womb, and through the birth canal, to delivery. We see the tiniest cells and the most detailed pictures of beating hearts and evolving, folding brain components. He opens with an explanation of what we will see, and how he did it; and he closes with details of the miracle that is the human body, and the implausibility (for he is a mathematician, among other things) of the wonderful workings of the human body.
How do we react to such acts of God? The voluble scientist Tsiaras keeps returning to the words “Divine,” and “Divinity.” For me, I was awestruck. In my dank past I was one of those “blob” adherents regarding the unborn. Eventually, like Ann Coulter, I came to realize the logical challenge inherent in the question: “Why is it called Birth Control and not Blob Control?” And after watching this video several times, my additional reactions are also wonderment, and tears.
And can we not all respond to things we take for granted – life, the miracles of our bodies, everyday protections, health, simple blessings, friends, and communities of believers – with Thanks?
Maybe, this year, we can keep the decorations in the closet; the dinner-table harvest-sentiments at bay; and some of the football games at low-volume. And “automatic” prayers. At least for a little while… let us Think before we Thank.
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This video, likewise, should not be compartmentalized for, say, “Sanctity of Life” Day. Life is sacred every day – and this vid shows us how we all got here, surely a miraculous thing to contemplate every day of the year. If the video does not link, Google for Tsiaras and “Conception to Life” and you will find it. Its production is, itself, a miracle… for it brings us closer to the Creator God. By the way, I particularly appreciate the background music as the speed-motion development of a baby is shown: Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria. Glorious indeed.