Day of thanks

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Come, ye thankful people, come,

Raise the song of harvest-home;

All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter storms begin.

-- Henry Alford (1810-1871) "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" (written in 1844)

Thousands of voices will sing these words on this national day of thanksgiving.

Giving thanks once a year is a tradition rooted in the earliest days of colonial settlement of America. English settlers brought the traditions of the harvest-home festival that marked the end of the growing season and the beginning of winter.

In the northwest corner of Missouri, descendants of English immigrants who have farmed the land since the 1880s still celebrate the traditional harvest-home festival each year at the Church of St. Oswald-in-the-Fields with friends old and new, baskets of food and deep-rooted memories.

And throughout Southeast Missouri -- as everywhere else in this wonderful nation -- we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day in our own special ways.

There are so many reasons to be thankful:

Family. Friends. Health. The bounty of nature. Good times. Marriages. Childbirth. Golden autumns. Crisp days. Life itself. And much more.

The psalmist expressed it thusly:

O come, let us sing unto the Lord:

Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,

And make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

This particular holiday still generates profound emotions as Americans gather with family and friends to celebrate the good things of life. This coming together once a year is like no other event. It is the biggest day of the year for assembling in homes to feast and visit.

There are those who have fewer reasons for joining the spirit of the day. There are many Americans who have no home, no turkey dinner and no family. Countless more fortunate folks will show their thanks by making sure the homeless and less fortunate have a bountiful meal in warm surroundings.

Still thousands more Americans will reflect on the spunk, ingenuity, ambition and creativity that has made America the greatest nation in the world. This was accomplished in spite of the obstacles and hardships that often seemed likely to thwart growth and prosperity. Even the very earliest settlers, who endured countless pitfalls, found good reason to set aside one day for prayer, mirth and good eating.

William Bradford, colonial governor, wrote this in his "History of the Plymouth Plantation":

All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. The dangers were great, but not desperate. The difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though there were many of them likely, yet they were not certain. It might be sundry of the things feared might never befall. Others by provident care and the use of good means, might in great measure be prevented. And all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome.

At this special time of the year, take a moment to remember the good in life rather than the "great difficulties."

And have a happy Thanksgiving Day, one filled with happiness, peace and time for your own special prayers.

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