Holiday steeped in tradition
David Berkowitz, vice president and ritual committee chair, Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive:
Thanksgiving is unique among American national holidays in that it has, from the beginning, a strong religious component. Yes, there is more to Thanksgiving than eating turkey and watching football. From the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving, celebrated in the fall of 1621, to Lincoln’s declaration Oct. 3, 1863, of an annual national day of Thanksgiving to be held on the last Thursday of November, the purpose of the celebration was to give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon us and our country. Today this element of Thanksgiving seems to have lessened in comparison to the feast and other entertainment. Many religious congregations do not have a special service on Thanksgiving, but some still do. For people of faith, we should be sure to bring within our Thanksgiving celebrations some religious content. In my family’s home we recite a special one page service for Thanksgiving Day from the Reform Jewish Home Prayer Book prior to our meal. There are many other prayers and blessings that can be used by all the denominations and religions in this country. It is important that we add at least a special prayer thanking God for the many blessings bestowed upon our country, to give us strength to continue to strive to live up to our ideals and to enable the United States to be a source of peace and freedom in the world as part of our Thanksgiving celebration.
May we all have a happy Thanksgiving and may God truly bless America.
— Send e-mail to David Berkowitz at email@example.com
Pilgrims showed their gratitude
Ron Channell, pastor, Family Church of Lawrence, 5150 Clinton Parkway:
Thanksgiving is a uniquely celebrated holiday. It envelopes the historic, social and religious mores of our earliest Pilgrims. It provides us an annual time of remembrance and gratitude as we reflect on why the Pilgrims first came to America.
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast, which marks one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. They collectively celebrated the harvest and “gave thanks” for a successful bounty of crops.
Just as the Pilgrims remembered, God reminds us not forget our blessings. He says, “Remember the former things of old…” (Isaiah 46:9). The ultimate blessing we have is God himself. The Psalmist prompts us to “give thanks at the remembrance of his holy name” (Psalm 30:4). He is our sovereign God who is in control of all things. He showers his children with blessing upon blessing, of which we should be eternally thankful. “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16).
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we should also remember the historic and defining commitment of those Pilgrims on board the Mayflower. They made their purpose very clear.
Here is an excerpt from the Mayflower Compact: “In the name of God, amen. We, whose names are underwritten … Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith … a voyage to plant the first colony…”
Why did they come? For the glory of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith! Let us not throw our Christian nation into the wind. Let us be thankful for our blessings and remember where they came from. Happy Thanksgiving!
— Send e-mail to Ron Channell at firstname.lastname@example.org