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November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving: Hope in the Midst of Trial

A tale of two Thanksgivings through the lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the great American poet, wrote “Christmas Bells” as a reaction to what he was seeing our country endure during the Civil War. Though we are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, the last two stanzas of this poem resonate particularly well with the clashing cultures of our society:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Like that era, our country today is becoming increasingly divided. This poem helps illustrate a tale of two Thanksgivings — one that is full of hate, despair, and callousness, and one that is traditional, hopeful, and clinging to the same God to whom the Pilgrims were giving thanks exactly 400 years ago.

And in despair I bowed my head

Inflation is cramping family budgets, especially in the grocery department. There was no ingredient spared from its ravages. The cost of the entire Thanksgiving dinner has gone up by 14%. More specifically, turkey is up by 24%, rolls are up 15%, and cranberries are up 11%. It’s a hardship for the middle class, but for the needy who rely on the generosity of others through food drives, it’s devastating. That’s not to mention the supply chain troubles. Some Thanksgiving hosts will be disappointed in the poor selection on their grocery store shelves.

Remember when the Biden administration bragged about this year’s Independence Day celebrations being 16 cents less expensive?

In the face of all this, President Joe Biden has elected to celebrate his Thanksgiving in Nantucket as he and his family have done for many years. This year, though, it seems rather tone-deaf for him to be dining in the lap of luxury (most houses in Nantucket are $3 million or more) while the strain on the average American pocketbook is great.

“There is no peace on Earth,” I said

The list for unrest seems unending. First you have high levels of crime in Democrat-led major cities, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and mobs of people threatening violence outside courthouses (see: Derek Chauvin, Kyle Rittenhouse, and Travis McMichael). Not to mention the latest horror of a man plowing through a Christmas parade, killing six and injuring dozens more. All this unrest seems to lead back to the lies of the mainstream media and the rhetoric of progressive leftists.

“For hate is strong / And mocks the song”

The COVID-19 virus and the ever-changing rules that keep people in constant fear is causing some Thanksgiving hosts to disinvite unvaccinated people. One survey found that 67% felt like they ought to be vaccinated if they want to go home for the holiday; 65% of the fully vaccinated respondents have disowned family members who aren’t vaccinated; and 63% do not feel comfortable inviting unvaccinated people to their homes. People are literally cutting off family members over a vaccine.

“Of peace on Earth, good will to men!”

Thanksgiving itself is under attack by leftists. It has been suggested by University of Southern California professor Peter C. Mancall that it should no longer be a day of celebration but a day of mourning “to reflect the centuries-long displacement and persecution of Native Americans.” He goes on to talk about the “myth” of Thanksgiving ringing false in light of the later fighting between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims that continued on for generations.

Thus ends the depressing version of Thanksgiving that the Left encourages you to have. This does’t have to be the end of the story. There is a final and more hopeful stanza in Longfellow’s poem and in our American Thanksgiving story as well.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep

The amazing true story of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag giving thanks for friendship and for a bountiful harvest is one that should alway be celebrated. Moments of happiness and peace should always be celebrated, especially for these unlikely and sadly short-lived friends. That thankfulness was not only about friendship but about God’s goodness to the Pilgrims. Think about the details of the story — how the first winter in Plymouth was terrible and many people died, and how Squanto, a Wampanoag who spoke English, extended the hand of friendship to the Pilgrims and taught them how to plant corn and be successful in their new home. This is one of those million-to-one-odds stories that really cannot be explained except by God’s goodness and provision to the Pilgrims who had left England because of religious persecution.

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep”

Despite the pandemic, many families are still gathering to celebrate. They are taking the true observance of thanksgiving to heart, trusting in God’s provision.

“The Wrong shall fail / The Right prevail”

The heart of Thanksgiving is reflected in Waukesha, where people stopped and properly mourned a tragedy and supported each other as they continue to strive toward making their community better.

It is also in the thousand small, unwritten kindnesses shown to neighbors.

It is in the loud voice of angry parents who make their thoughts heard in Virginia at school board meetings, in court, and eventually at the ballot box.

“With peace on earth, good-will to men”

Thanksgiving may look modest this year — it may even look less full of family and friends — but it is a tradition that celebrates the gathering of unlikely friends to share food and be thankful for what God has provided. It is a tradition worth keeping.

God bless you all.

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