“Keep Christ in Christmas” is a much needed slogan which reminds us that December 25th is about Christ. In recent years, the Holy Day observing the birth of the Savior according to the flesh has become a winter festival with no reference to Christ.
With that in mind, may I suggest that we also need to be reminded to “Keep God in Thanksgiving?” Giving thanks is directed to God. Gratitude which arises out of our hearts is what we offer God. It is a prayer. It is giving thanks TO God and it is giving thanks FOR God’s blessings.
Martin E. Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School, has written that “Thanksgiving is meaningless if it means ‘Thanksgiving for’ without ‘Thanksgiving to’.”
Thanks is always directed to someone. Since its origin in the Plymouth colony our national holiday was directed to God. Unfortunately, in our time, in the public square thanking God, even mentioning God, is avoided. Let that not happen as you gather on Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. Let the meal begin with a prayer giving thanks to God. Encourage those around the table to voice their gratitude TO God and to thank God FOR His blessings and love.
Thanksgiving Day got on the national calendar through the efforts of Sarah Josefa Hale who was an editor of a popular magazine in the 19th century. She campaigned and gained support for a national day of Thanksgiving. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation calling the American people on the fourth Thursday in the month of November to give thanks to God.
As you observe Thanksgiving, give thanks TO God and give thanks FOR God’s providence over you, your loved ones and our nation.
The season of Advent, the time before Christmas, begins the first weekend in December. This year Advent is short – just 22 days. Advent teaches us to recognize the coming of the Lord. To recognize Him in the people we meet and in our experiences. It teaches us to expect the Lord to come to us.
One of the purposes of Advent is to remind us of the need to wait with patience and joyful hope. In our technological age we are used to getting everything right away. Waiting should be an experience of readiness and anticipation. Our Lord comes in surprising ways. In the lines at the supermarket, at the bank, the airport, in the family with whom we share this Thanksgiving. When we least expect it, He comes. Be ready. This Advent prepare yourself to wait for Christ.
Happy Thanksgiving. Blessed Advent.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden