Remember blessings in the midst of football, feasting and family

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Mark Nevius
  • Hill AFB Chapel
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. What will be your focus on that day? Deep-frying a turkey? Surviving the invasion of in-laws? Cheering on your favorite team? Thanksgiving, like so many holidays, has wandered from its original intent. While football, family, friends and feasting are fantastic, we would do well to remember the historical reason for Thanksgiving Day -- to give thanks for our blessings.

The word Thanksgiving comes from the Greek word eucharistia or eu, meaning well or good, and kharis, meaning grace or favor. Combined, in the English language, it is translated good gifts or giving of thanks. Historically, the first Thanksgiving Day is generally associated with the pilgrims' celebration at Plymouth Rock, Mass., in 1621. This celebration gradually spread throughout the New England colonies, whereby a day was set apart to give thanks to God for his special providence and blessings. By the middle of the 18th century, Thanksgiving Day became a special holiday. The Continental Congress and President George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in 1789 as a day of public thanks and prayer to "render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection."

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln, during the height of the Civil War, cemented this tradition into American culture by declaring a special day of thanks. He declared, "The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added." Succeeding presidents declared various days of thanks, and in 1941, Congress established the fourth Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving Day.

So, this year, what blessings do we enjoy? Here are some overlooked blessings:

1. The U.S. Constitution -- this wonderful document has guided our nation since its ratification in 1789. It provides personal freedoms and rights to its citizenry and has been a beacon of light to the nations around the world. With it, we have certain inaliable rights to be enjoyed and protected. It has allowed our nation to live in a peaceful democracy for centuries and influenced other nations in their constitutions. Millions of people around the world live under oppressive governments and would sacrifice their all for such freedoms. Today, give thanks for our Constitution and its role in our personal freedoms.

2. Those who serve to protect and defend the constitution -- when a military member takes an oath to enter the military service, the oath centers on the defense and protection of the Constitution. Today, be grateful for those who serve to fulfill this high calling. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved." Every generation must sacrifice to protect and defend the Constitution. For some, it means the ultimate sacrifice. We should be eternally grateful for them.

3. The source of all blessings -- from our founding fathers to the present generation, millions of Americans pause to give thanks on Thanksgiving Day. They recognize God as the source of all blessings. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights recognize that our Creator has given us the right to pursue life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Focus, then, on the source of all good gifts.

In the military, sacrifice seems to magnify our ability to be grateful for all we do have. Take time on Thanksgiving to be thankful. From mashed potatoes, to the committed Airman who serves beside you, it is the day to give thanks.