For many years, Nativity has kept Harvest Thanksgiving on the weekend before National Thanksgiving. The church looks stunning, thanks to the hard work of the Decorating committee; after the ten o’clock service, we gather in the halls to share a great harvest lunch together.
And then, next week, we celebrate Thanksgiving all over again it seems–and you might well have wondered why we do it this way. Why two Thanksgivings? Why not just one?
There are all kinds of practical reasons. One is that the gathered foodstuffs of the week before can make their way to the food-bank of St. Matthew’s House in advance of National Thanksgiving, helping others to keep that feast. Another, more prosaic reason, is that it’d be hard to gather as a church community for lunch on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, with so many people travelling or hosting and worrying about when to start cooking what. Doing things this way also means we have exciting ham soup to look forward to in the near future!
I think that there’s another reason why this has become Nativity’s tradition, though. Separating the two occasions helps us to focus on different kinds of thanksgivings. There’s the traditional Harvest thanksgiving. And then we have a chance to join with other people all over Canada in giving thanks for all the blessings of our lives–for family and friends, for the ways we hear God calling us to act in loving service of others, for the support of our faith community, and for many others that we can call to mind. As the theologian Meister Eckhart wrote, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” After all, it is what we do, week by week: we gather to be wrapped up in our great thanksgiving for all of the ways God rushes to meet us and to welcome us into a loving embrace–and all of the ways God invites us to offer that same welcome and blessing to all we meet.
Happy thanksgiving, and may you know God’s blessing!