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  A Christian Faith Magazine November 2002, Volume 8, Issue 4  
Raymond Guido
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The Mayflower
The Mayflower

Everybody can remember coloring pictures of cornucopias, one of the most recognizable symbols of Thanksgiving, when they were in kindergarten. Cornucopias signify abundance and most people relate this to the amount of food they will consume over the holiday. As a young child, the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the word "Thanksgiving" was a big stuffed turkey. On Thanksgiving Day, I looked forward to feasting on meal after meal, pie after pie. As adults, we know the real meaning behind Thanksgiving; amid the festivities and the tradition of an abundant meal, it is a day in which we take time to thank God for everything He does for us.

In the classic story of the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims broke from their labors at the end of a bountiful harvest season to partake in an enormous feast. This feast was laid forth before not just the Pilgrims, but also the Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. Every person came together and either cooked, gathered food or set the arrangements. For three days, they celebrated and gave thanks to the Lord. What is not readily apparent is the sacrifice the Pilgrims made in stopping for those three days. Their second winter was rapidly approaching. Their first had been devastating, causing the deaths of 46 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers. The New England weather would deal them conditions that were much more severe than their native English winters. They were anxious to adequately prepare for the anticipated hardships yet their spirit of gratitude and faith allowed them to pause to give God proper thanks for His blessings.

The story of Thanksgiving has a significant moral for us today. It shows us that no matter how hard we work, how tired we are, how busy we are, how sad or happy we are, there is always time to thank God. The Pilgrims were busy farming and building a place to live; yet they were able to put everything aside for a time to enjoy themselves and give thanks to God. The Pilgrims were grateful for the land they received, a generous harvest, and each other's company. These things were so important to them because they came to this country filled with hope and the promise of a new beginning. They had fled their native land and made the long pilgrimage to America to escape religious persecution.

It can be somewhat disconcerting when we can't break from the busyness of our lives, and we pass up the opportunity to give thanks. Why is it so difficult to stop from our daily routines to give thanks to God? Partly because, similar to the Pilgrims, we are struggling today to survive; in our struggles we lose perspective. We can forget from whom our blessings come in our efforts to have more blessings bestowed upon us. Perhaps we don't stop to pray in thanks because it is not part of our regular routine. We live our lives on a schedule. The alarm goes off, we awaken, and we go to school or work. We have family, social and personal commitments. Do we have a commitment to pray in thanksgiving? Each one of us has something to be thankful for, whether it may be good health, a roof over one's head, a newborn child in the family, or the company of friends. It is important not to take these things for granted. We need to make saying thank you to God a priority.

Turkey on a Plate

The month of November, in which we not only celebrate Thanksgiving but the feast of Christ the King, is an excellent month to reflect on the gifts from God in our lives. A great way to start is by setting aside time to be by yourself and meditate. Think about your life and what you have to be thankful for. Think of specific instances, gifts, and relationships that you are grateful for. Reflecting in this way will have more meaning than the general thought that God has blessed you. Review your current day or week for things you are sincerely thankful for such as a particular time you felt God working in your life through someone or an event. Then just have a conversation from your heart with God. Thank Him for these blessings and thank Him for the blessings of others. When you are finished, possibly end your meditation by reading a passage from the Gospels, or a Psalm such as Psalm 67: 1-7 "God, be merciful to us and bless us; look on us with kindness, so that the whole world may know your will; so that all nations may know your salvation. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you! May the nations be glad and sing for joy, because you judge the peoples with justice and guide every nation on earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you! The land has produced its harvest; God, our God, has blessed us. God has blessed us; may all people everywhere honor him."

Prayer is a wonderful way to sustain our feelings of gratitude and bring us closer to God. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we pray, "...all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father..." A prayer of thanks is a simple yet powerful way for us to give glory to God. Through meditation, we reflect on the blessings we receive from God. In prayer, we acknowledge that it is through His power and love that we enjoy the gifts. We recognize Him as the source. We give glory to Him in the full acknowledgement that it is through His works, not ours, that we enjoy His blessings. We can't often stop for a full day as a family and a country as we do on Thanksgiving; however, through a consistent commitment to meditation and prayers of thanks, we can express our belief that God alone is worthy of all glory and honor and maintain a sincere feeling of thanks for His blessings. We must view this as necessary for our survival as people of God.

Praying Hands

As God's people, it is our privilege to be able to praise and thank the Lord. Without God, nothing is possible, so it is only right that we gather together to celebrate and give thanks each Thanksgiving. As we spend this special day sharing our traditions with family and friends, we are reminded of what is truly important in life and how fortunate we are. We can make a conscious effort to maintain this gratitude in our hearts as we pass through this season of giving thanks. Being faithful to a commitment to regularly pray in thanks will soften our hearts and allow us to regularly give God glory and honor. In return, God will give us the strength to persevere and bring us closer to Him.

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