Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving (or not)

What is this holiday all about anyway, and why should we be grateful? Who are we thanking?

Thanksgiving was originally celebrated by the British colonists those who landed on the continent of the Americas to thank God for safe passage. Then by the pilgrims and the indians (Native Americans as it is PC to say these days) as simple harvest festivals, but became formally a day of Thanks after a particular hard drought, and prayers brought rain, which resulted in a good harvest. Squanto, a Native American, had also taught the pilgrims how to catch eels and plant corn.

Now days, people just use it as an excuse to skip work. Those who have a deep and abiding faith in God, still recall that all we have comes from Him, and we truly give thanks for what we have and who He is.

I had a thanksgiving experience back in 1984 that is unparalleled.. I was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army, and traveled with my chaplain (my boss), his family, my roommate, and some friends of my boss's wife to West Berlin from West Germany. Back then, travel thru East Germany was an interesting experience. We had to travel thru Checkpoints Alpha and Bravo as we left West Germany and entered West Berlin respectively. As we were driving thru East Germany, it was the middle of the night, and we were apparently driving thru the middle of nowhere as there were no lights anywhere, except an occasional light when we would pass an on/off ramp onto the Autobahn (Freeway) on which we were traveling. All was good, we arrived safely, had a great few days, enjoying West Berlin, and traveling thru Checkpoint Charlie which allowed us to visit East Berlin, where we had a thanksgiving dinner of sorts in an "International Restaurant" that was barely passable as a decent meal. At the end of the weekend, we again went thru East Germany, passing Checkpoit Bravo in th early afternoon, and driving the same Autobahn that we had come in on. Back then, if you traveled from West Germany to West Berlin, there was ONLY ONE approved route, and you had to have "Flag Orders" so named because they were printed on paper with the US Flag preprinted. The Flag Orders had to be letter perfect, with the information on them matching exactly the Identification Card information that accompanied them. So anyway, as we traveled this same autobahn that was totally dark in the middle of the night, we saw bildings, houses, factories, and just basically continuous city all the way as we traveled back to the West (and freedom). The friends of my boss's wife, had relatives that had recently escaped the East German life into the freedom of the west, so I enquired about this anomaly.

So I found out that the East Germans had a curfew imposed by the Russians (East Germany was still occupied (and oppressed)) at the time. It was told to me that the curfew extended to light emitting from the home after certain hours, and that the Stasi (East German Secret Police) would very harshly enforce this curfew. Thus total darkness in the middle of the night and a Blaupunkt factory, lumber mills, houses, etc. plainly visible in the daylight, and early evening.

The bottom line, we are grateful to God, for our freedom, His gifts of life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness.

Mostly, tho' I am grateful that the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, stepped down to earth, became human, in the person of Jesus Christ, and redeemed ME from my sins 2000 years ago. He did this not because I deserve anything other than death, but because of His own Holiness, that demands that the atonement for sin is death. Because we cannot pay these demands ourselves, He paid them for us.

John 3:16-17 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.

Thank You Jesus!