With Christmas Carols and Christmas decorations taking over the stores when Halloween is barely past, and Black Friday looming right after it, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a hard time maintaining its position in American life. And what that position is can be hard to determine, beyond an excuse to consume obscene amounts of Turkey and doze through a football game under the influence of all the Tryptophan flooding one’s system. I will probably consume a little more Turkey than is ideal for my diet and watch some football myself. But I hope I don’t forget what the Pilgrims were thankful for: not prosperity but survival, and a survival which meant a chance to have a new life in which they could worship God according to Scripture as they understood it, without interference from prying magistrate or prelate. I hope I don’t forget that they thought such freedom something worth risking their survival over. And I hope I will not be the only one pondering the question whether they might have been right about that after all.
Thanksgiving is a time to remember our Forefathers and what they struggled for. It is also a time to ponder the virtues of thankfulness in itself. I remember once at a picnic a rather gaudy, elaborately articulated, and heraldically colored bug flew by and landed on one of us. We spent a few minutes oohing and ahing over its surreal beauty, and then my friend David Stott Gordon made a profound observation on the moment. “It must be rather depressing to be an atheist,” he mused, “because they don’t have anyone to thank.”
We are made to give thanks and praise for the thousand little wonders that the world constantly showers upon us. Think about that football game: When a receiver makes a particularly acrobatic, even balletic catch as the consummation of the incredible timing between him and the quarterback, combining power and grace in the way that only American football allows for, some response is required of us. We don’t just raise a Spockian eybrow; we pump our fist and shout if it was for our side, and exclaim that it was a great play even if it wasn’t. The enjoyment of the moment is not complete without the expression of praise. And if all such wonders are merely chance occurrences due only to the random motion of atoms and ultimately mean nothing–if indeed there is no One to thank–then our enjoyment of the world must of necessity be truncated and incomplete at best. The holiday can serve as a reminder of the virtue of receptiveness to the blessings with which life showers us, as blessings–as gifts from the hand of God. The thing we should be thankful for most of all is the fact that as Christians, as people who know the Creator as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have some One to thank.
Thanks be to God.
For more of Dr. Williams’ writing, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and order his books, Stars Through the Clouds, Reflections from Plato’s Cave, and Inklings of Reality.