As every American knows, we set aside the latter portion of this week to give thanks. Hopefully, we offer gratitude on a daily basis in our own private ways. This moment in time, though, is a sacred space of time set apart specifically to gather with loved ones and reflect upon all we’ve been given—much that we don’t deserve.
Most of us associate Thanksgiving Day with the relationship between Native Americans and the first foreign settlers. While we do pull many traditions from those events, in fact, Thanksgiving Day did not become a national holiday until Northerners dominated the federal government during the civil war.
In the midst of our nation’s most vehement conflict, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of “Godey’s Lady’s Book”, convinced President Abraham Lincoln that we needed a ritual to reunite the country, and she was convinced a celebration of gratitude was the answer. He agreed, and our first official national day of thanksgiving was October 3, 1863.
The date was shifted several times through the early years. For example, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to extend the “Christmas shopping season” so he moved it back one week. Many states did not comply. Finally, congress set it as the fourth Thursday of November.
This coming weekend is also the beginning of the season of Advent. Coincidence? I don’t know but it is not lost on me that gratitude collides into a season of expectation for something beautiful. Sunday, November 27th is the first Sunday of Advent. It is my favorite season of the year in that it’s four weeks of time set apart to remember the promised child as well as reflect upon the “coming” king’s return. These are the two intertwined but separate advents in scripture.
In his book, The Clown in the Belfry, Frederick Buechner calls Advent, “an invasion of holiness”. To me, that is a perfect description. The innocent child bending the knees of kings for no reason other than his pure holiness. The coming king bending all our knees by his holy name and pure authority.
While our Thanksgiving holiday can certainly be full of fun and games—from football to late-night Monopoly with our tables pulled close to the fireplace—I’m wondering how much deeper and richer—memorable—they would be if we also made room within the inn of our hearts to reflect upon both the first Advent and the one yet to come.
As I give thanks, I think I’ll make time to trek out into the woods and fashion my own Advent wreath, ready to light my first candle on Sunday, November 27th.
Love, your sister along the journey,