Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

‘Twas the night before….no, that’s not the one.
Tomorrow morning, go outside and watch to see if the turkey sees its shadow – if it does, there will be six more weeks of leftovers…nope, not that one either.
Hot dogs, sparklers, fire crackers…Mmmmmm no.
Baskets – check.  Plastic grass – check.  Copious supply of Bertie Bott’s every Flavor Jelly Beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies – check…I’m missing something here.
Over the river and through the woods…perhaps.
Floats,  Santa arriving, food and the Dallas Cowboys.  Nah – it’s got to be something else.
Pumpkins, scary costu… No. Something else.  I’m sure it will come to me eventually.
While I’m trying to figure it out, I suppose I could do some preparatory work on tomorrow’s dinner.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed taters, sweet taters,  green beans, corn, you know the routine, and it seems somehow connected to whatever it is I’m not remembering.
While I’m working on that part of this, a brief history lesson.
Four hundred years ago, England of the 17th century had the potential to be a most uncomfortable place under the right set of circumstances.
The stranglehold that the Holy Roman Catholic Church and that of its leader, Pope Gregory IV over the British Isles and the peoples therein was coming under attack from primarily two fronts. James Stuart, the first of his line, was becoming more and more dissatisfied with the oppression of the church, and was active in forcing a new state religion, Anglican, on the peoples of Great Britain, and an additional anti-papist/anti-Church of England group – the Protestants, or Puritans, began to assert itself.  This latter group was itself under persecution by both Rome and the crown, both of whom used their authority to execute protestants declaring them to be traitors, heretics, witches or some combination of the three, and leading many of them to flee to Leiden, the Netherlands, where at least in the beginning they were afforded a cursory degree of religious freedom.
On September 6th or 16th, 1620, depending whether you measure time by the Julian or Gregorian calendar, the Mayflower, peopled by a crew of 25-30 plus 102 passengers departed Plymouth, England, for a destination near the Hudson River in what was then called ‘Northern Virginia’, arriving sixty six days hence near Cape Cod Massachusetts; a location that would become known as Plymouth Rock.  Driven off course by a storm, the tiny ship arrived on November 11/21, 1620, with only one less passenger than when it departed England 66 days earlier.  Two died on the crossing, and one baby was born making it a net loss of only one.  After riding out the harsh New England winter aboard the ship in living quarters roughly the size of a modern volleyball court, the voyagers came ashore to build their settlement on March 21/31, 1621, sometime between 389 and 390 years ago.
Of the original 102 ‘Pilgrims’ and 25-30 crew, only 53 passengers and roughly 15 crew survived the harsh ship bound winter to establish the New England colony.  The following autumn, after being befriended by a local native American Indian tribe, and gathering the harvest of their first fresh planting season, the combined group held a feast of thanksgiving.  In 1863 President Lincoln declared that this would be an annual day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, and in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the national Day of Thanksgiving that holds until today – that of the fourth Thursday of November.
So here we are.  The day before the fourth Thursday of November, 2010.  Tomorrow will include the Macy’s Parade in New York City which concludes with the arrival of Santa in a large red sleigh, a veritable feast shared with family and neighbors, traditional Thanksgiving Day football games which Detroit will unexpectedly win and Dallas will manage to lose, and the newcomer with the Jets and the Bungles, and both CBS and USA will toss their regular Thursday night lineup just because they can.
At our table we will thank God for salvation, family, freedom and those who sacrificed to secure it, the feast of which we will partake, and the blessings with which we are daily showered by the grace of God.
And we will remember the words of Paul the Apostle from his first letter to the church at Corinth, chapter 10, beginning at verse 15:

“I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”

as well of those of David, son of Jesse, the shepherd who would become King, as he spoke in the 100th chapter of the book of Psalms:

“Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Happy Thanksgiving.
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