How do we give thanks when a chair at our table now remains empty? Or when finances suddenly change for the worse? Or when illness or accident limit a loved-one?
Throughout history people have celebrated with feasts on the heels of tragedy.
The feast of Purim celebrates escape of the Jews from annihilation during the reign of King Xerxes. (See the book of Esther.)
Seven years into the Eighty Years War, following a year long siege, the city of Leiden celebrated in October of 1575 when the Spanish treasury ran dry ending the siege after many days of hardship, fear, and death. The Puritans experienced this feast of thanksgiving.
The Puritans’ first Thanksgiving feast in the New World commemorates the blessings that a few people had survived their first year at Plymouth.
Hardships people have endured becomes a dark background upon which the brilliance of God is quickly recognized, like a diamond sitting on black felt.
Thus this week we celebrate Thanksgiving to acknowledge God at work in our lives, carrying us through hardship. We share times of joy while we recover from hardships endured to remind us again that God is with us in all circumstances.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRSV)