We feast on turkey and candied yams, watch football, loosen our belts, and hope to find a little more room for some pumpkin pie. In our feasting, we count our blessings. We offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for how he’s provided during the year, or for the many ways he’s taken care of us. But I wonder, could Thanksgiving be about more than just gratitude? What if Thanksgiving were actually the ultimate celebration of abundant life?
Think about that first Thanksgiving Day. Not the one we see in the children’s book illustrations—where the Indians and the Pilgrims sat among the cornhusks passing turkey legs. These images may mislead us from the reality of the situation.
Those first settlers were a small but brave group who risked everything to come to the new world. They endured a two-month journey on a stinky, wooden ship during the stormy season. The sounds, odors, and byproducts of seasickness were their constant companions on a journey where safe arrival was never a guarantee.
In addition to these hardships, the Pilgrims had to watch many of their loved ones die on the journey. Those who somehow survived the treacherous trip faced even more trials once they reached the new world. The survivors spent their first winter living on the Mayflower, unable to venture out to the shore. Between disease and the cold, their population shrunk by half during that first winter.
Those who made it to that first Thanksgiving feast—which took place about a full year after their arrival—truly had a lot to celebrate! Not only were they alive, but they’d found the freedom to worship God in the manner they chose!
I wonder how many of us could have endured all of that and still emerged with an attitude of gratefulness? Instead of complaining or mourning the harsh realities they’d experienced, they cried out, “Glory to God who has given us the earth and everything in it!”
My ability to celebrate life, God’s blessings, and all of his abundance pales in comparison to the zest with which those Pilgrims celebrated. I too often lament minor hardships, asking God why he didn’t make my path even easier and questioning why he didn’t do even more. But, in my self-focus, I miss the opportunity to truly thank the one from whom all blessing flow.
As people committed to the values of abundant life, it’s appropriate for us to stop and praise God for all the ways he’s allowed us to experience life this year. We can thank him for not only our breath, but for the freedom we still enjoy to openly practice our faith, and to fight against injustice.
And it’s also appropriate for us to stop and celebrate our victories. History tells us that the Pilgrims didn’t just have Thanksgiving at the end of the harvest. They started a tradition among settlers of the New England where they had frequent times of Thanksgiving—days of prayer and celebration—at the end of droughts or after military victories.
As an organization committed to making abortion unthinkable, we can celebrate each of the lives saved through our network of affiliated pregnancy centers, our national hotline, and our church partners. It’s a tremendous grace to watch parents choose life for their unborn child and to have the opportunity to help support them emotionally, spiritually, and physically through that decision and beyond.
We can also celebrate “battle victories” such as watching several states pass pro-life legislation. Though we know our work has only just begun in these states, we can offer thanks to God for swaying the hearts of politicians to the cause of life.
Most of all, we can celebrate the freedom we have to offer hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those facing unplanned pregnancies. This is a blessing we should never take for granted. Advocating for life without offering the truth and hope of the Gospel is like offering a hungry person a single meal, with no provision for the future. That’s why Care Net isn’t just pro-life, but Pro Abundant Life.
God’s plan for his children is not just that they live, but that they live abundantly. This year, let’s thank God for his amazing provision of abundant life through Jesus Christ.