Summary: How do we treat Thanksgiving when the culture is trying to drive God out of that feast?
Thanksgiving Day 2013
Now Thank We All Our God
“And now bless the God of all, who in every way does great things; who exalts our days from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.” These words, from the wisdom of Jesus ben Sira, or Sirach, inspired the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God,” which will be sung today from millions of American voices. Indeed, we give thanks because we owe a great debt of thanks. If we owe a thank-you note to an aunt who has given us $20 for our birthday, how much more do we owe eternal thanks to the God who created this world, and created us, who redeemed all of humankind, and redeemed us, and who holds grace in overflowing abundance for anyone who will turn to Him and do His will?
Many of you know that I teach in a public school, and I truly love my work. There is nothing more invigorating than to get up every morning and look forward to teaching chemistry to 160 bewildered young minds. The reason is that when they do get it–and most do–the look on their faces is a reward that cannot be matched. A few of them, during this season, write “thank you” notes and cards to their teachers. There’s nothing like seeing yourself called an “amazing” teacher by the youngster who is barely eking out a passing grade.
But that’s the end of it. Thanksgiving, in the public domain, is a holiday without a center. George Washington’s inaugurated the tradition with these words: “ Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” Nonetheless, over the past fifty years, we have allowed secularists and atheists to banish God from the public square, and chase religion into the churches. It was the logical, nasty product of the Enlightenment. Voltaire gave these God-haters their marching orders: “écra·sez l'in·fâme” (crush the infamous thing–the Church), and they have been trying to do so ever since the 18th century.
So, if I were to put in my classroom the words “Happy Thanksgiving–let us all give thanks to God, however you may perceive Him,” as wimpy as that is, I would have to take it down as soon as an administrator heard about it. I’d probably get at least a verbal reprimand about sensitivity to those who do not believe in God. Next month, almost nobody will participate in the so-called “holiday” decorating contest, because it is a contest without a center, just as Thanksgiving is a festival without a center. God is the center of these feasts, and when you rip out God, you rip out the reason for the feast. I suspect that before the decade is out, secularists will use the fact that the word “holiday” has “holy” in it, and make certain that nobody can use that word in the public square. They already want to get rid of Santa Claus, because they realize he was a Catholic bishop–hence the red suit.
So what shall we do in the face of these infamies? Let’s take a cue from St. Paul, who, I believe, was the original Christian optimist. Here we find him looking at all kinds of information about the church he founded at Corinth. Corinth, of course, was the Las Vegas of its day–full of sexual and commercial corruption. He was probably looking at memos telling him about the situation there: Christians forming cliques, refusing to share their food at the communal meals, getting drunk at public assemblies, bragging about spiritual gifts, and even tolerating a member who was living incestuously. So how does he begin his letter to that church? “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge -- even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you -- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He begins with a blessing and a prayer of thanksgiving.