Over the course of my seventy years, I have lived in 12 states and one other country; I have celebrated Thanksgiving in 11 of those states and the other country, The Philippines.
I lived in the Philippines when I was two and really don’t know if my mother made a Thanksgiving Dinner or whether we celebrated Thanksgiving at the Officers’ Club at Clark Air Force Base. Until I graduated from college in 1971, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family wherever my father was stationed or working. We might have celebrated Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house in St. Louis when we lived in Illinois since it was close by.
Many of those whom I grew up with or went to school at that time were like myself, the sons and daughters of Air Force officers, so the places where they celebrated Thanksgiving were as wide and varied as the places where my family celebrated. Of course, some of the guys I went to high school probably spent at least one Thanksgiving in Vietnam or other far away places. But because Thanksgiving is one of those special days, I would think that their Thanksgiving meal was a little bit different from the regular fare served.
Like years’ past, there are many spending Thanksgiving in a place far from home. But this year’s Thanksgiving is, as we are aware, just a bit different. Because of the pandemic, we are also separated from our family and friends. And even with the technology that gives us Facetime, Skype, Zoom, and other communication tools, there still is a space between our loved ones and us.
But as we gather together virtually, we do so giving thanks that next year’s Thanksgiving will be as different from this year as this year was so much different from last year.
Still, there is a gap or a void that even the best of technology can bridge. The pandemic and the political environment have exposed and opened serious rifts in the fabric of society. And even if the turkey tryptophan effect could lull us asleep after our Thanksgiving dinner, the world in which we awake will still bear the scars these past few months have inflicted upon us. Perhaps, and even more so, because of this we have even more reasons to be thankful. While problems that we cannot see are often difficult to solve, there is still a solution if we seek it.
And that means that the problems that lie before us are that much easier to solve because we can see them. And we know that, because the solutions for these visible problems haven’t worked in the past, we have to seek new solutions; we have to see the world differently. Like those who gathered in Philadelphia that hot summer in 1776, we understand the thoughts that Benjamin Franklin is said to have expressed, “We must all hang together, or we shall all separately.
On this Thanksgiving, 2020, no matter where we are or where we have been, have the chance to change where this world is headed. The prophet Isaiah wrote,
Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. – Isaiah 2: 3 – 4
I do not doubt that there are some who will refuse to walk with us in the way suggested by Isaiah. They walk the path that is focused on where they have been and long for those days. They see a divided world but in looking at the past, they miss the Glory of the Coming Lord
But as we look forward, we see the Glory of the Coming Lord and realize that we have the opportunity to, in as many ways as there are people, share in God’s Bounty.
We live in many different places; we have been to many different places but today, on a day where we may be separated by distance, disease, and anger, with God, we can bridge those gaps and move to the Promise of God’s Kingdom given to us some 2000 year ago.