Thanksgiving – and Giving Thanks

This picture is an honest to goodness wild male turkey (or tom) that wandered from the nearby woods into my parents’ back garden last Autumn.  He had at least 2 hens with him, but they were far less captivating. Before you ask, no, my parents did not shoot or eat this beautiful creature.  They merely paused to admire him (and shoot a few photos) – although having said that, they likely ate one of his relations.  As will I very soon, because it’s American Thanksgiving!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving is a time when the whole nation pauses – collectively puts aside its differences (or makes an attempt) – and gives thanks.  This normally takes place over a huge turkey or venison feast, often inviting others who may be alone, so no one is left out.  If a family prays only once a year, it will be at Thanksgiving – and sometimes people even remember to whom they’re giving thanks!  ‘Giving thanks’ is a noble tradition which should remind us of a deeper reality – that everything we have in this world, from the air we breathe to the turkey on our plate – ultimately comes from a loving God who has provided bountifully for all his creatures – human and otherwise.  

Theologian Miroslav Volf has discovered a deep connection between the concepts of ‘home’ and ‘gratitude’.  He says that home is not a thing, but is relational – a social and material space comprised of responsive interactions, where each member is a gift to each other.  What is the appropriate response to a gift?  Gratitude.  Thus gratitude (or giving thanks) is the most comprehensive response to the continuous experience of ‘home’.  This should be true in our own homes but is certainly true of our earthly home in relation to God.  As Volf explains, ‘to experience oneself as God’s creature, and to act as such – and to experience others as God’s creatures – is to be at home.’  We are all a gift to each other.

We ought to give thanks every day – but if only once a year, Thanksgiving nevertheless draws our gaze momentary away from ourselves and our own problems to a reality far greater and more important, and to the One who is truly worthy of thanks.  It resets our perspective and enables us to see things – like the incredible beauty of this male turkey, or one other – with new appreciation.

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