Beatrix Schirner, Dakota and Ponoka United Church:
I have a niece named Thankful: Magdalene Lavon Thankful Green—Maggie for short. The story behind naming her Thankful has to do with my sister’s pregnancy. It was an extremely high risk one, with my sister being on complete bed rest for the last trimester. For Maggie’s birth they had an extra large operating room with scads of specialists on hand. Both mother and daughter came through with flying colours. She and her husband were so grateful that they built their gratitude into their daughter’s name. I can’t think of a more fitting story with which to enter into the coming Thanksgiving Day weekend.
For many people Thanksgiving is a family time. Families gather together to eat and visit, enjoying each other’s company. I remember when James and I lived in Ottawa. We had no family nearby, so we began inviting young people, who were far from their families, to join us for Thanksgiving. These are pleasant memories of creating a family atmosphere where otherwise loneliness might have been overwhelming.
Another pleasant memory: James and I married on a Thanksgiving weekend 21 years ago. There is something about Thanksgiving. I have a friend who every Thanksgiving chooses someone from the past year who had an impact on her—for whom she is grateful. It could be a friend or even someone she doesn’t know personally. She sends them a thank you card and a note telling what difference they have made to her. She finds this to be a most gratifying discipline. It is indeed a time of year to deliberately thank those around us for all they mean to us. It is a time to count our blessings.
Thanksgiving has a long and varied history in Canada. It was a movable feast. I find it fascinating that the Canadian Parliament, on Jan. 31, 1957 proclaimed, “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed…to be observed on the second Monday in October.” I’m fascinated not that they nailed down a particular day on which to celebrate, but that they specified we should give thanks to God. I wonder if any government in our country would do that today?
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we give thanks to God, not only for the harvest, but for all our blessings. This is a central idea in the life of faith. It is based on the understanding of God as Creator, or as my native friends say, the Creator or the Great Spirit. It is this Holy One who is the source of everything that is. Nothing comes to us by our own effort, no matter how much it might seem so. Everything we have, everything we are, comes from God: our very lives, our freedom, even our faith. Our response is to give thanks to God and to worship God.
My wish is that you had much for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving. God bless.