By Naomi Houston
We so often hear folks complain about how quickly Christmas merchandise begins to appear on the shelves of our stores. Almost, it seems, as soon as we’ve celebrated July 4th advertising for Halloween (and soon afterward Christmas) begins to appear. Lost between the two, Thanksgiving Day has become a time for economists to measure the national economic health.
From Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (which had its inauguration back in 1924) to today’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, whether in person or online, is watched closely. And, let’s not forget the plethora of football games (around which the timing of the Thanksgiving Dinner must be planned).
That small company of men, women, and children, who landed at Plymouth Rock and laid the foundations of a new nation, those survivors of the Mayflower who were summoned together on that day in 1622 to come together and praise God for their first harvest – the first tangible sign that their pilgrimage had divine approval and that “God was not ashamed to be called their God” established for us a time set apart to take a “time out” and be thankful for God’s faithful watchcare over our lives.
Of course, we know that, over time, this idea disappeared from our national life for a long time and it took the ravages of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln to bring a day of Thanksgiving back into our national focus.
America, as any community, requires traditions and celebrations to bind it together and our social glue is becoming increasingly thin. The fact that America’s origins lay in a people who acknowledged their dependence on God has become an embarrassing fact to many in our world today. We may speak publicly of “what” we are giving thanks for, but not to whom we are offering thanks.
In Luke 17: 11-19 we read the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Most of us have never seen a leper or know much about the disease, but had we lived in those days we would have known a great deal about it for leprosy was the most feared disease in the world, it was deadly, incurable, and hopeless. Those even suspected of having the disease were banished from society. To be cured of leprosy was like being raised from the dead. Here in this passage of scripture, we find a colony of 10 lepers who encounter Jesus as he is traveling to Jerusalem. The passage says that they “stood at a distance and lifted their voices saying “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” If you are familiar with the story you know that Jesus told them to “Go, and show themselves to the Priest,” and, while they were going “they were healed”.
So they were healed. It is a marvelous miracle, but it is not the end of the story. When one of the lepers saw that he was healed he immediately turned back praising God with a loud voice and fell on his face thanking Jesus. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?”
Ten men were healed that day and only one came back to thank Jesus. Are we as a nation, as individuals, with the nine – or with the one? Far too many of us take our blessings for granted.
Praise is a choice. We can be thankful or we can be bitter. We choose the way we live. The one leper who returned to give thanks chose not to forget what Jesus had done for him. May we choose this Thanksgiving Day – and every day – not to forget what God has done for us.
Naomi Houston and her husband, Lt Col Clay Houston USMC Retired, live on Henson Creek in Avery County. They are members of Mt Zion Community Church where Naomi is the adult Sunday School teacher. Both have been actively involved in church throughout their 68 years of marriage and Naomi wrote a weekly column for the Avery Post for many years.
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