I was startled this morning when the guy on the radio commented in passing that Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away. Is that possible? I’ve been so caught up in the recent election that I nearly let the holiday slip up on me. (Following the presidential campaign was a lot like passing a horrendous pile-up on the interstate–horrifying and mesmerizing at the same time.) But no longer.
I love Thanksgiving. The mere mention of the holiday floods my mind with warm memories, a cataract of sights and sounds and smells and, above all, of people very dear to me. In my household, as likely in yours, Thanksgiving has always been preeminently about family. I think of Thanksgivings past and I see my grandmother serving cornbread from her cast-iron skillet, my grandfather preparing to ask the blessing, my mother in her apron mashing potatoes, my father carving the turkey (and serving his new son-in-law the tail), my own small children dressed up as Indian maidens or as William Bradford. Furthermore, I genuinely admire the Pilgrims, the group we commonly link with Thanksgiving’s origins. They had their blind spots—as do we—but they were also people of faith and courage and hope, and there is much in their example to teach, admonish, and inspire us. I would never want to lessen the meaning of this special holiday.
But I do want you to think about it.
The story of the First Thanksgiving is central to how we, as Americans, remember our origins. The subsequent development of the Thanksgiving holiday speaks volumes about how we have defined our identity across the centuries. As Christians, our challenge is to “take every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5), including our thinking about our national heritage. We need to respect our forefathers without worshiping them. We must find a way to learn from the past without making it an idol.
Every day between now and Thanksgiving I will be sharing brief essays fashioned with these goals in mind. Many of them, though not all, are drawn from my book The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us about Loving God and Learning from History.
I hope you will find them useful.