This morning I awoke early and trudged down the hallway to the living room which on Holidays and sick days doubles as a chapel. I was all ready to say the Morning Office using the collect and readings for Thanksgiving Day when I noticed in Holy Women and Holy Men that the twenty sixth of November is also the day appointed to commemorate the life and work of Isaac Watts, a clergyman and hymn writer. Now, I usually view the family rituals of Thanksgiving as somewhat paganesque (we can talk about incarnation theology and the goodness of all things another day) as it usually invokes images of overeating, too much spirits of the liquid variety and loud booming television presentations of football games. So in a spirit of rebellion I decided to depart from the Thanksgiving Day propers and use those for Isaac Watts. I am very glad I did as those lessons project images of thankfulness, blessing, sanctity of life and assurance or salvation. They cast a Thanksgiving image much more compatible with my way of thinking.
I will leave to the reader a study of Watts’s background as it is very well detailed in Holy Women, Holy Men and in sources such as Wikipedia. I will recite this from HWHM: As a hymn writer Watts wrote more than six hundred hymns, about a quarter of which continue in popular use. Among his works was his Psalms of David a metrical psalter that versified the psalms in English for hymnic use. Perhaps the most enduring contribution in this genre is O God our help in ages past, based upon the opening verses of Psalm 90.”
But this piece is not really about Isaac Watts but rather, about the lessons associated with his feast day. In reading these lessons from the Bible I was struck in this manner:
The First Chronicles lesson talks about David offering the burnt offerings and peace offerings, blessing the people of Israel and distributing to each person a loaf of bread , a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. To me that imagery invokes the essence of the thanksgiving meal as we are meant to celebrate it. We give thanks, we bless the Lord and ourselves; and we share a meal. Obviously, for we Christian types this also invokes the images of the Eucharist which is a form of thanksgiving.
In the lesson from Colossians the emphasis shifts. Saint Paul admonishes us on how to live; “as God’s chosen ones we are to put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience.” We are to be forbearing and forgiving of each other when we offend each other and to readily forgive.
Finally in the Gospel from Mark we hear the story of the blind beggar receiving his sight not due to his own merit but because he recognized his own inadequacy and was willing to plead for mercy from his Lord and Savior.
So this thanksgiving my family and I will make our thanksgiving sacrifice as our Hebrew ancestors did remembering the words of the Apostle about how to live and in the knowledge that we will receive our sight and our salvation as proclaimed in the Gospel lesson.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING. Okay time for the games to begin.