One of the enduring symoblic characteristics of the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620 is that they were in a strange new land. Many of us may even feel that way today. Decades of dramatic cultural shifts and the rise of secularism has certainly changed some of our familiarities with America. The nation seems more divided politically and culturally than at any other time, besides the American Civil War. Some believe that our country is headed towards an even greater fragmentation due to a plethora of irreconcilable differences. Everything is being politicized within our culture now, and it still should seem odd to read news stories about fights over the dinner table about politics. The media too often likes to obsess over conflict and divisions.
Instead, Thanksgiving should unite us and bring us together. It’s quintessentially an American holiday but its purpose is ancient. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that should place our attention away from ourselves and upon higher truths, particularly the blessings we receive but too often do not deserve. It’s a reminder that there are more important things than political ideology or political power.
As Christians, the Pilgrims were well versed in a spirit of gratitude. Despite losing half of their numbers in the first year, they persevered and gathered to offer thanks to the Lord. A recurring theme in the journals of some of the pilgrims was that this new world was a land of harvest and abundance.
I lived in Egypt for a couple years and it was a wonderful place to live. Yet, it gave me a deeper appreciation for this country and the blessings that we have been given to live here under great freedoms.
America is changing rapidly in many ways, some of those ways are good and some aren’t. But Thanksgiving should always bring us back to the deeper and permanent things in life. Thanksgiving is great because it should push us to grow not in materially things, but in gratitude. It’s no coincidence that Cicero called gratitude the greatest of virtues. It’s a virtue that truly changes us, even in the midst of uncertainty and great struggles. It’s a spirit we should all embrace.