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Barrie Kirby: A recipe for Thanksgiving

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.–Colossians 3:12-15

Thursday is Thanksgiving, a day to gather with family and friends for a special meal. No matter where or with whom you eat, there is a recipe for what you eat, even if it is only in the mind of the cook. Certain steps must be followed if the dish is to turn out right. To help you get ready for Thanksgiving Day, I’m going to share a recipe for Thanksgiving. But first I want to tell you why this thanksgiving recipe is so good.

Our annual Thanksgiving Day has a long tradition. The first officially designated day of thanksgiving in colonial America was observed in1619 by thirty-eight English settlers at Berkley plantation in Virginia. Their charter required the date of their arrival be observed annually with a day of thanksgiving to God. This was strictly a religious observance, without a feast.

A few years later, the Pilgrims in Massachusetts had an observance that was far more festive and no doubt much more fun. It has become the model for our modern Thanksgiving Day celebration. During the fall of 1621 Gov. William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony issued a proclamation declaring a day of thanksgiving and prayer to God. The Pilgrims, along with 90 Wampanoag braves, feasted for three days. Historians say it is likely that they ate not only turkey and venison but also corn, geese, ducks, eel, clams, leaks, lobster, pumpkin, plums, fruit, hominy, cod, bass, barley, cheese and corn bread. Now that was a feast!

Similar days of thanksgiving were observed sporadically through­out the colonies. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress declared a national day of thanksgiving. After the war, President George Washington issued a proclamation designating a day for people of all denominations throughout the nation to thank God for protection prior to their becoming a nation and for the peace and prosperity since that time. The national observance was later discontinued, but several states declared their own Thanksgiving Day.

President Lincoln reinstated a national day of thanksgiving to be observed the last Thursday in November of 1863. Succeeding presidents continued the practice, except that in 1939 President Roosevelt changed the day to the fourth Thursday in November. He was hoping that an earlier Thanksgiving Day would encourage more holiday shopping. Two years later, Congress designated Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. Again this year, our nation continues the long tradition of a day of thanksgiving which includes family feasts.

But there are other ways–perhaps even better ways–of showing gratitude to God than with a day of feasting. We say “thank you” to God when we pray. We can write a “thank-you note” of sorts with a hymn or poem or making a list of our blessings in a diary. We can tell others what God has done for us. We show our gratitude with our offerings. These are all good ways to give thanks to God. But I would like to suggest that the best means of thanksgiving is thankful living.

The letter to the Colossians instructs God’s chosen ones to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love. These are characteristics that were present in the person of Jesus Christ. We see these divine attributes in the life of our Lord. The best way to show our gratitude to God is to model our lives after his. We cannot repay the many favors the Lord has granted us. We will always be indebted to our God. But we can give thanks to God by being like the giver, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but each day that we live.

So now I offer to you this recipe for thanksgiving.

  1. Combine in your lives large portions of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
  2. Stir in generous quantities of tolerance and forgiveness.
  3. Saturate the mixture with ample amounts of love.
  4. Blend all the ingre­dients together and cook to perfection.
  5. Spread thickly the peace of Christ within your hearts.
  6. Sprinkle heavily with thankfulness.
  7. Add abundant portions of his Word.
  8. Just before serving, stir in some teaching seasoned with wisdom and some singing flavored with gratitude.

Repeat this process daily. And what­ever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Barrie Miller Kirby is pastor of Spencer Presbyterian Church and author of No Such Thing as a Cherokee Princess.

 

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