Historically, Thanksgiving was a time for gratitude for the ingathering of the harvest. Today, for most of us, the real “ingathering” is of family and friends. Such gatherings teach us of the changes that take place in life – children grow up, young people marry, loved ones die. Gathering reminds us that what endures is family. And yet, our gathering together also reminds us families are far from perfect. We experience tensions and conflicts when we gather, brokenness exists in every family.
And yet, families endure with their strengths and challenges, their love, and their struggles to forgive.
This Thanksgiving will be tougher than most. A year ago, phrases like “practicing safety protocols” in relation to celebrating Thanksgiving (or any holiday) with family and friends would have sounded foreign, alien even. Today wearing masks, staying safe distances away from each other, not greeting each other with a handshake or a hug has become part of our daily lexicon.
Yet we know that when we endure those things that make us stronger and those things that challenge us to grow, we are also offered new opportunities for giving thanks.
The Jewish theologian, Abraham Heschel, says: “Gratitude is our humble response to the inconceivable surprise of being alive.”
November, in the Celtic culture, is called “Samhain,” which means “in winter's grip.” Samhain marked the beginning of the new year. As the days grew shorter, darker, colder, as the trees became bare and lifeless, the agricultural year was at its close, and at its beginning. The growth cycle, more easily seen in colder climates than South Florida, begins in the darkest depths of winter, when the cold forces the seed to germinate in preparation for their spring emergence. Although much of nature seems dead, life is really resting and waiting for the return of light.
Samhain was a time when much was happening below the surface in nature. And thus, Samhain was thought to be a good time for introspection -- a time for people to pause and reflect, take stock of what was going on beneath the surface of their lives.
The church used these ancient customs as the foundation of the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls -- celebrated on the first and second day of November. Halloween, which means “the eve of all hallows (saints)” is a remnant of the ancient rite of reverence of the ancestors, practiced by the Celts.
As we enter “winter’s grip,” and we reflect on all that is happening below the surface of our lives -- and we gather, practicing safety protocols, with family and friends -- let us not forget to give thanks for the “inconceivable surprise of being alive.” Happy Thanksgiving!
In a very real way, gratitude is what we express each year during stewardship when each one of us prayerfully considers the direct correlation between our stewardship pledge and our love and gratitude for all God’s blessings
Often, a key stewardship question is, “Why should I give to the church?” I cannot answer that for you. No one can. I can tell you that I am committed and so grateful for God’s graciousness that I have pledged to tithe 10% of my compensation – as have the seven Episcopal staff members – for God’s work through St. Christopher’s.
As you contemplate the meaning of the words: Praise God from whom all blessings flow, won’t you please consider joining your commitment to mine in recognition that:
All things come of thee O Lord
And of thine own have we given Thee
Love and Blessings,
Rector and Head of School St. Christopher’s By-the-Sea