Remembering Pearl Harbor and Raising The “Greatest Generation” [Video]

Pearl Harbor, Greatest Generation

December 7, 2019, was the 78th anniversary of the attack by Imperial Japan on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In 1941, it was a typical early Sunday morning an entire lifetime ago.

Families were getting ready to head to worship services all over the Hawaiian islands. Others were enjoying the blessing of another day of beautiful weather in Hawaii. That included the Naval personnel not on duty at Pearl Harbor.

It began like any typical Sunday, with no one believing that only a few hours later, 2,400 of them would be dead. That only a few hours after sunrise on December 7, 1941, the world would change forever, putting a terrible lie to the phrase, a ‘typical’ Sunday.

The Children of the Great Depression Go to War

The Greatest GenerationThe Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was one that America didn’t see coming and we weren’t adequately prepared for it at the time. The nation was shocked and sorrowful and roused to righteous anger as America plunged into World War II.

The young Americans who fought and died in that war have been called the “greatest generation.” However, before they were the “greatest generation,” they were children in the Great Depression, which the country was still mired in more than a decade after it began when Japanese bombers and fighters ravaged the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.

It is no overstatement to say that these young warriors from America literally saved the world those many decades ago. Yet, many of World War II’s first American victims at Pearl Harbor lived their formative years steeped in poverty and desperation.

What made these children into men and women strong and courageous enough to overcome the fearsome enemies that threatened the freedom of the entire globe? There are many factors that affect the formation of any person, but arguably the most important of these is the family environment.

Therefore, a key to understanding the “greatest generation” is to understand something of what their families were like when they were children. What was family life like in America during the Great Depression and how did that shape those who would later be thrown into the greatest and most devastating war in history?

Family Life in the Great Depression

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A rare color photo of a Depression-era family

The family unit was strained and though divorce rates plummeted during the Depression, more men, in particular, were abandoning families than in the past. Yet, compared to such statistics today, the family was a far more stable unit during the 1930s.

Of course, survival in such tough times had a significant impact upon keeping many families together, as one would expect. Family life necessarily varied depending upon what part of the country a family occupied.

In both rural and urban areas, the hardships forced families and communities to become innovators at being co-operatively frugal. One such example was the creation of community “thrift gardens” in many urban areas which helped serve the needs of multitudes of people.

Many families strived for self-sufficiency by keeping small kitchen gardens with vegetables and herbs. Some towns and cities allowed for the conversion of vacant lots to community “thrift gardens” where residents could grow food. Between 1931 and 1932, Detroit’s thrift garden program provided food for about 20,000 people. Experienced gardeners could be seen helping former office workers—still dressed in white button-down shirts and slacks—to cultivate their plots.

Many rural families had to contend with the father leaving for extended periods to find work. Other families moved to the cities in search of better fortunes and small towns got smaller and the residents more tightly-knit together for mutual survival.

However, none of these facts and statistics can adequately tell the story of how the “greatest generation” was raised. It is the family stories alone that can provide better insight into what it was like to be a child in a Depression-era family.

“The Walton’s”, a True-to-life Family Story Amidst the Depression

December 19, 1971, a new Christmas movie entitled “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” aired on television and the world was introduced to the “Walton” family. The movie was characterized as the “pilot” episode of a new TV series which began a nine-year run with weekly episodes from 1972-1981.

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The original family house of Earl Hamner Jr., creator of “The Waltons”

The series was a fictionalized account based on the real-life of its creator, Earl Hamner Jr., who also narrated each episode. It became enormously popular especially in America and allowed viewers a glimpse into the life of a rural family through the Great Depression and World War II.

The role of John Walton Jr., aka “John-boy”, played by Richard Thomas, was modeled after Hamner himself, and the series revolved around his life in rural Virginia during the 1930s and 40s. This remarkable program showed many millions a family unlike the ‘modern’ family of the 70s and 80s, and totally alien to what are called “families” today.

For instance, three generations of Waltons lived under the same roof of a two-story country home in Virginia. Grandparents, parents, and children, 12 people in all, lived in the Walton/Hamner home.

Family life under the best of circumstances was a constant battle with soul-crushing poverty, and viewers of “The Waltons” observed the manifestation of an adopted motto from the Depression,

 “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”

One of the most profound parts of the Hamner’s personal, and the fictional “Waltons” family was the place of faith in the household. In this short video clip, that is reflected via a conversation between ‘John-boy’ and ‘Grandpa’ Walton about God at a moment of decision for the Walton family’s eldest child.

Were ‘The Waltons’ a perfect family? Far from it. Their weaknesses and setbacks were displayed many times during the series.

However, the portrait of a family such as the Waltons reveals that before the “greatest generation” went to war, they were molded in the toughest of times with fierce family loyalty and respect for God, country, and family values.

Life is far different nowadays, and of course, there is no going back in time no matter how much we may long to do so. What can be done is to bring the unchanging truths from the past into our individual lives and families first.

Relearn the truth that faith and patriotism must go hand-in-hand at the basic level of the family. This can be promoted even today if we start with one person, one family, and one community at a time.

Will there be loud opposition to those attempting to live with respect for God and dedication to a renewal of family values in the land? You can count on it.

But will it be any worse than the struggles of the Depression-era family in America? I think not, and moreover, whatever obstacles are placed before us should first drive us to our knees calling upon the God of the universe for strength and wisdom.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4 [ESV]

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Daly Sorvongsavanh’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Robert Huffstutter’s  Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Evan Bench’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Kipp Teague’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

Originally published in TIL Journal

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How Wise Were They?

The most beautiful story in history is the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, which we celebrate every Christmas. Joseph and Mary, along with a string of other characters, remind us of how holy His birth was to all Christians. But through centuries of translations, this special event has become inundated with a lack of facts and/or misinterpretations. Let’s revisit a section of the nativity’s chain of events – that which involves the three wise men. I think it will surprise you to learn a few details never explicitly revealed in the Bible. For this blog, I will refer to the nativity story as written in the Book of Matthew 2:1-12.


Who Were the Three Wise Men?

Matthew tells us they came from “east of Jerusalem.” If we examine the historical facts, east of Jerusalem was the Parthian Empire (also known as Persia), which is today’s ancient Iran. They rivaled Rome during the time of King Herod’s reign and occupied much of Palestine.

Image of Persian Empire courtesy of Wikipedia

When the Medes (ancient Iranians) and Persians conquered Babylon, the Persians formed a priesthood of wise men known as magicians or magi. This appears to be the point of origin for the wise men, who held dual priestly and governmental authority. They were called the magi of the Parthian Empire but were NOT considered kings. (So, how did we invent the Christmas song, We Three Kings??) They were perhaps advisers to the kings.

Most residents of the empire practiced the Zoroastrianism religion, now considered being the oldest practice in the world. They believe in one universal, supreme deity, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord.” Despite their religion, they understood a new Savior would be born through the prophet Daniel’s prophecy. (Daniel 9:24-27)


Names of the Three Wise Men

Following the format of most stories in the Bible, the three wise men were never named, and only legend and many interpretations assigned the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The Catholics kept the names and honored them as kings and saints, but their real names were never revealed in scriptures.

The three wise men, today, are called “Magi,” “the Three Wise Men,” and “three kings.” We’ve already confirmed they were not kings. “Wise men” translated is “magos,” which means an Oriental scientist, magician, sorcerer, or wise men. They interpreted dreams, were fortunetellers and royal astronomers. The gospel writer, Matthew, referred to them as ma’goi, or magi.


How Did the Wise Men Become Involved in the Birth of Jesus?

Many territories around Bethlehem had close links with King Herod, including the Parthian Kingdom. They knew Herod as a treacherous king who committed many murders, including his wife, her brother, and father, many friends, and military leaders. He didn’t trust anyone.

Image of King Herod courtesy of Wikipedia

The day arrived when the wise men appeared in Jerusalem, and they began asking questions around town. They wanted to know where they could find the new King of the Jews. A major stir developed because people believed their earthly king was Herod.

When Herod learned of the chatter, he became furious because he was the only king of the land. He approached Jewish religious leaders who told Herod what was written in God’s word. They told him the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2

Furious at the news, Herod secretly called a meeting with the wise men. They told King Herod they witnessed a star which they believed to be the prophecy of the Jewish King. (Many Christians conclude the wise men followed the star, but the Book of Matthew only says they SAW a star).

King Herod, the conniving leader he was, acted thrilled about the magi’s news, but he was seething inside. He sent them to Bethlehem to find the Messiah.

“Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Matthew 2:8


The Magi’s Journey

The Gospel of Matthew does not place the wise men at the birth of Jesus. It is written they arrived at a house with a young Jesus, by His mother’s side. It’s estimated He was about forty days old to two years of age, but not in a manger. They dropped to their knees and gave praise to the new Savior.

Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

The evening of the magi’s visit, David, the archangel, paid a visit to the wise men. He warned them not to return to Herod, and he also told Joseph that night to pack up his family and move to Egypt for safety.

The wise men “departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12) Realizing he was snubbed by the magi, King Herod madly ordered the death of every boy between the ages of birth and two years old. He thought he would find the Messiah, but not before his death.


How Wise Were They?

I believe they were quite wise men! The word wise means having good judgment. They studied the word of God and obeyed His commands, even though they were of another religion.

Are the three wise men fact or legend? We can decipher the answer by reviewing the written facts above, but there is one profound message in their story… wise people acknowledge their need for a Savior.


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Before There Was Santa

The excitement of Christmas is right around the corner. Shoppers fill the malls while jolly men dressed in red suits with a white beard chuckle, “Ho Ho Ho,” to the smiling children. Oh, there’s nothing better than good cheer this time of the year!

Santa Claus, a commercialized entity in the United States, was a mere Coca-Cola sketch in 1931, which grew into a life of its own. But, before there was Santa, the true patron saint of children, St. Nicholas, filled the shoes (quite literally). Yes, this is the true story that links the roots of Santa Claus and a man named Nicholas.

Nicholas was born about 280 A.D. in the village of Patara on the southwest coast of Turkey. A devout Christian, he was left with a large inheritance when his wealthy parents died in an epidemic. He gave all of his money to the needy, sick, and those in distress. A servant of God, they blessed him with the title of Bishop Nicholas at a young age. His heart, though, remained with children.

One would not think such an honorable man (and the first Santa) could be a victim of Christian persecution, but this event tells us otherwise. In 325 A.D., Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea meeting, and the fundamentals of Christian faith was the topic of discussion. He challenged a lecturer, named Arius, on the beliefs of Orthodox Christianity. An argument ensued, and Nicholas slapped Arius in front of the Roman Emperor Constantine. The Council put Nicholas in chains, stripped him of his leadership position, and jailed him for assault.

Nicholas prayed for forgiveness and humility. He hoped God would forgive him. A recall of the story claims the Lord visited him in prison one night, removed his chains, and returned his garments. The next morning, prison guards discovered him praying and dressed in his bishop attire. The Emperor received word of the mysterious event and ordered Nicholas to be released – it was divine intervention. Nicholas rejoined the Council of Nicea and helped to create the Orthodox Christian religion as we know it today.

Many stories are told of Nicholas’ good deeds through the centuries, and they portray him as a gift-giver. But how did he receive this name? The following incident forever links him to Christmas stockings…

A poor man had three daughters whom he wanted to marry off to prospective husbands. In those days, however, a woman’s father offered a dowry for marriage. The larger the payment, the better the chance of finding a husband. Having no money, he knew his daughters would soon be sold into slavery.

Nicholas learned of the family’s harrowing story. On three different occasions, bags of gold balls were tossed through an open window of the poor man’s house, and they landed inside the stockings and shoes, drying near a fire. Today, three gold balls are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. Do you recognize the connection to Christmas stockings?

You may also ask how St. Nicholas was linked to Christmas, so I will tell you. After his death in 343 A.D., many miracles involving children occurred, and they were all contributed to St. Nicholas. Small gifts and candy silently appeared for poor children on the holiday celebration, Feast of St. Nicholas, which is celebrated on December 5 and/or 6. Are the stories true? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Most European countries still celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas today. It is a day about giving and recognizing those who contribute to society. Good children receive treats or small gifts in their shoes. The Europeans teach us that to celebrate Christmas, large amounts of gifts unnecessary – keep it simple to retain the real reason for the season.

Over the centuries, St. Nicholas transformed into another similar figure called Santa Claus. Known as Sinterklaas in Holland, their customs entered the United States and the fat man in a red suit, was soon born. But, let us not forget the roots of St. Nicholas, who came before there was Santa. Compassion, charity, and giving the greatest gift of all – himself – took center stage. This should be the image of Christmas!


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The First Promise of Advent

The First Promise of AdventThe four Sundays prior to Christmas are traditionally known as “Advent,” within most Christian churches. It is a time of both anticipation and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth into our world more than two millennia ago.

December 1, 2019, is the first Sunday of Advent on the church calendar. Many churches feature special events prior to or even as a part of congregational worship gatherings. These usually include the introduction of Christmas “hymns” or special music selections familiar to most of the people who will attend.

Since Christmas is a time that many people visit churches who don’t regularly attend, Advent is also a time when additional presentations are held such as dramas and musical performances. These special services are often prepared months in advance with the help of numerous volunteers who strive to make the season more meaningful for those who attend.

There are some potential problems with the tradition of Advent that can go largely unaddressed because they are unrecognized. One problem fits the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” in that the more practice one has over many years participating in Advent, the more one can overlook the meaning of doing it at all by simply taking Advent for granted.

Another significant problem involves those who are among casual church-goers whose main motivation may be to observe children or other relatives participating in Christmas plays or in a special choir performance. Instead of taking Advent for granted, these people can easily just dismiss it altogether as one more “event” to attend around the ‘holiday’ season.

In short, this epitomizes the difficulty every church and every pastor has in preparation for this time of year. How can the marvelous message of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, bring born as a human being to bring His creation the good news of God’s love and grace, be meaningful and impactful for everyone?

The First “Advent” Promise, the Proto-Evangelium

Advent wreathThe four Sundays of Advent also feature an activity only engaged in during this time of year, the lighting of the Advent candles. A different candle is lit each week symbolizing the qualities of hope, faith, joy, and peace given to humanity by the coming of Jesus.

The candles are most often arranged in a circular pattern within an Advent “wreath.” In the center of the wreath, a larger white candle is usually placed to symbolize the birth of Christ, and is thus known as the “Christ candle.” Usually, a short ceremony/teaching accompanies the lighting of each candle to help express the meaning behind the concepts.

I will not delve into the history of how the idea of an Advent season came about and how it has developed until today. Rather, I propose to present a biblical case that the true meaning of Advent is contained and expressed within the Word of God.

I have always believed that the true meaning of anything is inextricably tied to its origin. Therefore, the meaning of Advent as a concept [rather than the meaning of the term itself] can be found in the origin of the concept in the Bible.

Advent originates in the Bible where the writing begins, in the book of Genesis. It is first presented by the words of God in the Garden of Eden in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s first disobedience of God.

God spoke to Satan who had taken the form of a serpent,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 [ESV]

This verse is known by biblical students and scholars as the proto-Evangelium, or “first gospel” message ever presented.  In the midst of pronouncing the punishment for the original sin of humanity, the LORD drops a nugget of golden “good news” to look forward to in the future.

Gabriel, Mary, AdventSpecifically, God promised that sometime in the future, the offspring of the woman would fight against and triumph over the offspring of the ‘serpent’. It is a unique promise because it identifies the one who will come as the “her” offspring, rather than a descendant from both Adam and Eve.

There are other instances in prophecy when God specifies that the promised One is going to be born of a woman alone. The most familiar of these comes from chapter one of Luke’s gospel as announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:30-35 [ESV]

The first promise of Advent is that Christ is coming to fulfill the plan of salvation set in motion way back in Genesis. Moreover, the promise was also that He is coming in a miraculous manner that God alone could accomplish, being born of a virgin!

Advent helps us recall the hope of this promise, and look toward God to fulfill it on our behalf, even at great cost to Himself. Realizing and accepting that promise in each heart brings the ultimate hope for our eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Take time this Advent season to grab onto the promise of God for yourself through faith in Christ. It will be the best Christmas gift anyone could ever acquire.

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Reel Ministry’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Christine Macintosh’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Percy Sledge Agbunag Carballo’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

Originally published at TIL Journal

 

Creating Creches

Last Christmas, my wife and I attended the largest private showing of manger scenes in the world. Made of every substance possible, I was in awe of their delicate beauty. I immediately knew we would have to collect nativity sets – I was hooked! The inspiring creches represented almost every country in the world, and every cost range too.

Nativities from all over the world – images owned by Bicks Books LLC

So, this year, as we began gathering topics for the Christmas blogs, I remembered the local church’s display of nativities. Detoured from my train of thought, I began searching the internet for sets made in Bethlehem. I couldn’t believe the splendor of these handmade creches of biblical olive trees. With my mind really ambling now, I wondered how long ago people made the sets, which signifies Jesus’ birth, thus today’s Christmas blog.

It surprised me to learn Saint Francis of Assisi, in 1223, created the first nativity scene in the town of Greccio, Italy.  He wanted to make an extraordinary experience for people who attended Mass at Christmas, and others who visited the area. But, his scene differed from those we purchase on the internet because he brought it to life!

Saint Francis of Assisi

Inspired by a recent trip to the Holy Land, he set up the Christmas scene in a cave just outside of town. It featured a wax figure of the baby Jesus, costumed people playing Mary and Joseph, a live donkey and ox, which a friend loaned St. Francis.

During the Mass, Francis told the Christmas story, then delivered a sermon. Afterward, many people strolled to the cave to watch a live enactment of the sacred event. He told the story of Mary and Joseph with tears and piety, and people responded with joy. His first manger scene became so popular that others soon followed his lead.

With time nativity sets evolved into an artisan craft. Today, the oldest set remains in Italy. Constructed in 1289, out of marble, it is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. He was an Italian architect and sculptor whose most famous work was the bronze statue of St. Peter now placed at St. Peters Basilica.

Creche sets of the 1300s were made of marble, wood, or terracotta. They placed most of them in chapels and churches for year-round displays. The most famous of these was a set carved in wood, in 1330, for the Poor Clare Sisters at the Convent of Saint Clare in Naples, Italy.

As Christianity progressed, Martin Luther used these holy scenes to counteract the pagan beliefs of Christmas trees. The creches became front and center of holiday celebrations for Christians.

Today, the tiny town of Bethlehem, in Connecticut, boasts a restored 300-year-old handcrafted nativity scene displayed in a barn on the grounds of a monastery. Thousands of people stream through the doors to view one of the country’s most exquisite artworks, dubbed the Rembrandt of creches. A coronation gift to the King of Sardinia in 1720, this masterpiece sits in a 15 by 10-foot area. The sixty-eight terracotta figures adorn colorful silks with gold embroidery. The creche is a lasting impression, for all walks of life are represented throughout the artwork. This must go on my bucket list!

Image owned by Robert Fenton Houser

Creating creches, whether in a live show or by the loving hands of true workmanship, will always remain the resounding reason for the season. They are a simple reminder of the humble King who would grow up to sacrifice His life on a cross for sinners. Let us never forget the gift of Jesus coming to earth to offer salvation to all people.

Be blessed!

www.danabicksauthor.com

A Perpetual Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving , prayerThanksgiving as a holiday is a day traditionally set aside in America to reflect upon and “give thanks” for the multitude of blessings we enjoy as Americans. Most businesses are closed, at least for the morning and afternoon hours, before plunging us all into the mayhem of the Yuletide season.

For most, a large part of such reflection involves family, feasting, and football. For many, that often means enjoying our abundance of these items as a prelude to the Christmas holiday.

However, Thanksgiving can suffer from a familiar ailment of such days of celebration. It is the ailment of the holiday aftermath.

The Advent of Thanksgiving Day

Replica of the Mayflower in Plymouth Massachusetts

The Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower and landed at what they would call “New Plymouth” in 1620 suffered through a terrible winter with the result being that almost half of their number died. The reaction of these remarkable people was to bind closer to each other and together come closer to God. In order to assess the significance of Thanksgiving Day as a modern holiday, we should take a glance at generations past. The origin of this holiday is recorded and fairly well known.

Their diligence, faith, and trust in the LORD were rewarded the next spring when in March when one solitary Indian walked boldly into the Pilgrims camp and entered the “common house” before the startled men could react. What happened next would bring untold good fortune to the besieged settlement.

Welcome!” he suddenly boomed, in a deep, resonant voice. The Pilgrims were too startled to speak. At length, they replied …”Welcome.” Their visitor fixed them with a piercing stare. “Have you got any beer?” he asked them in flawless English. …The Pilgrims looked at one another, then turned back to him. “Our beer is gone. Would you like …some brandy?”

The mysterious visitor accepted the offer of brandy and the subsequent offer of food as well. While he ate and drank, the Pilgrims began to pepper him with questions particularly how he was able to speak their native tongue, but he refused to answer until he finished his meal.

When he did finish and answered their questions, they learned that he was a leader of the Algonquins in what is present-day Maine whose name was Samoset. He had learned English over many years of speaking with English fishing captains along the coast of Maine.

It was Samoset who would introduce the Pilgrims to another Indian that would prove the greatest human benefactor for the ultimate survival of the new settlement. That was a man named Squanto, who would literally teach these colonists everything they would need to do in order to survive, and pave the way for the first celebration of Thanksgiving.

Squanto taught them how to plant and fertilize corn with fish, as well as how to catch the fish in the best manner.

Squanto helped in a thousand similar ways, teaching them how to stalk deer, plant pumpkins among the corn, refine maple syrup from maple trees, discern which herbs were good to eat and good for medicine, and find the best berries.

3063466292_0c67673fc0_wWhen Governor William Bradford a day of public Thanksgiving to God, the tribe which was known as the Wampanoags, among whom Squanto and Samoset, though of different tribes, lived, was invited to participate, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The “day” stretched into a three-day celebration of mutual feasting and fun.

Between meals, the Pilgrims and Indians happily competed in shooting contests with gun and bow. The Indians were especially delighted that John Alden and some of the younger men… were eager to join them in foot races and wrestling. There were even military drills staged by Captain Standish.

The reason for the Thanksgiving celebration was the Pilgrim’s faith that God had brought all these unlikely circumstances together and blessed them beyond any expectations. Thus the moment which was most important for them was the start of the festivities with a prayer by their pastor William Brewster thanking God for their provisions.

Thanksgiving’s Aftermath

This first feast of Thanksgiving forms the backdrop to the day we designate in America as “Thanksgiving Day.” What happened in the aftermath should serve as a warning to the nation as we leave the orbit of Thanksgiving for another year.

Through a series of unfortunate events, the winter after the first festival of thanks proved to be exceedingly harsh for the Pilgrims of Plymouth.

Thus they did enter their own starving time that winter of 1621-22 (with… extra people to feed and shelter), and were ultimately reduced to a daily ration of five kernels of corn apiece. (Five kernels of corn – it is almost inconceivable how life could be supported on this.) But as always, they had a choice: either give in to bitterness and despair or go deeper into Christ. They chose Christ. And in contrast to what happened at Jamestown, not one of them died of starvation.

Thanksgiving prayerThat ordeal would linger on the hearts of the Pilgrims through further hardships such as a severe drought that threatened to wipe out their crops the next planting season. The reaction of these stalwarts was to declare a day of fasting and prayer to seek the LORD.

These and other considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estates between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by fasting and prayer.

The result of this was two weeks of unseasonably gentle rain that revived their crops and insured a bountiful harvest that fall. The aftermath of their first Thanksgiving began with more adversity and it seemed God had abandoned them.

For these remarkable people of faith, all that meant was they needed to trust God even more and depend upon His provision. Which brings me to the larger point of recounting this history that great blessing is often followed by great testing and that both are meant to drive us closer to Christ.

I and my family have also experienced this. My stories are of little import beyond my environment for I know other pastors, missionaries and evangelists who have welcomed great favor from the LORD and endured far greater hardship than I.

We in America are living through a time of great blessing mixed with great opposition to the blessings He has granted us through the presidency of Donald J. Trump. The challenge presented to us by the Pilgrims of the past is that we must live as they did, in a state of perpetual thanksgiving to God, repentance, and prayer for His guidance and aid to face the trials and testings yet to come. 

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50:23 [ESV]

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

The Light and The Glory, Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Harley Pebley’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of denisbin’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Mike Licht’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Hope Media Stock Photo’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

The Carols Heralding

Many enjoy our words of faith and enduring inspiration; however, not all of my life is colorful as the fall. But, this is not about those I’ve turned over to God in prayer, but the joyful ending of God’s faithfulness. The holiday season is fast approaching, and I won’t focus on the ugly parts of life, but the joy of Thanksgiving.

Thanks be to God ~ the carols heralding!

Living in a state of humility and reverence, I find myself so thankful for answered prayers. The summer winds turned to the north, and the foliage of forests turned harvest colors. It’s time to lie down arms, repent, and comfort those we might forget this past year.

Thanks be to God ~ the carols heralding!

Yes, it’s time to rejoice! Give praise to our almighty Father for our many Thanksgiving blessings. Join hands to commemorate the peace and love we’ve found in each other. It’s not just the pilgrims landing anymore. Our sovereignty, through God, our Father, blessed the table we partake this past year.

Thanks be to God ~ the carols heralding!

I so often return to the words my wise dad spoke, “count your blessings, not your problems.” I welcome you to share this thought on Thanksgiving. Lay aside the differences, if only for one day, and thank God for your life. Count your many blessings and be thankful. We fill every day with memorable moments.

Thanks be to God ~ the carols heralding!

As for my family and I, this year’s Thanksgiving Day holds a significant meaning. It falls on the twenty-eighth, which was my Dad’s birthday, and I commemorate him in heaven. It was also my parent’s wedding anniversary. Married in 1958, I bet they picked this day so my dad would never forget their anniversary. Only one person knows their story for sure, and he’ll never tell… or will you, Uncle Bill?

Thanks be to God ~ the carols heralding!


Be sure to join us again on Sunday, December 1 for the ongoing “Everything Christmas Blogs”

An Acceptable Christogram

Three weeks before Christmas, I can remember the annual ritual of watching my mother write her holiday cards to friends and family members. She’d sign our name and below that she wrote, “Merry Xmas.” One year, I asked her what “Xmas” was, and she told me it was short for Christmas. She used to mail about 60 cards, so I could understand why she shortened it – I’d have writer’s cramp too!

I grew up seeing both written versions of this holiday name and never thought twice of any Christian implications; after all, my mother was a devout worshipper of God. But, this Christogram (an abbreviation for Jesus Christ) became a secular upheaval called the “War on Christmas.”

Many Christians take great offense to the use of the Greek word “Xmas” instead of Christmas, for they feel it takes Christ out of Christmas. Some call it blasphemous and disrespectful to the Lord, making Him anonymous. Modern etiquette discourages using the word as an abbreviation in formal writing. Style guides for some publications such as The New York Times, discourage using Xmas unless writing space is limited.

Well, a surprise to all Christians – “Xmas” has impeccable credentials! The “X” in this Christogram  represents the Greek letter ‘Chi’ which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Christos. The English translation for Chi is “X,” and it represents the Messiah. Xmas’s second half, “mas,” means mass; thus, the whole word means Christ’s Mass. In Hebrew, Jehovah also has an abbreviation.

The Christogram, Xmas, has been abbreviated for at least 1,000 years. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reveals “Christ” written as “Xp” or “Xt” as far back as 1021. So, how did this word become so prevalent in today’s times? I think we have the world of advertising to thank for this transition as Xmas fits perfectly in the narrowest of leaflets or shop windows. And it’s no coincidence the “X” looks similar to the cross. I think it is acceptable for Christians to write “Xmas” on their Christmas cards or social media sites. If faced with objections, explain why their criticism is unfounded, according to Christianity. Blaming the secularization of a religious holiday on the misconception of “Xmas,” reflects a misunderstanding of our history and language, don’t you agree?


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Flowers of the Holy Night

How often do you drive down a road and notice the plants and weeds growing along its edge? You might see them if they are shockingly beautiful, but otherwise – not so much. Would you ever think a Mexican roadside weed could become a symbol of Christmas, or be linked to Christianity?

Poinsettia, a name meaning “very beautiful,” grows as a weed in Mexico and Central America. They grow wild in a tall, stringy form, and the red flowers are actually not flowers. Similar to our Bougainvillea in the United States, its upper leaves turn red, and the tiny flowers grow in the middle of the bracts. Cultivated in a variety of colors now, an Aztec king once prized it. So, how did it become a favorite Christmas plant?

The Aztecs used to pull these weeds to make purple dye for clothes and cosmetics. They made the white sap in the stem into medicine to treat fevers. In 1825, Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador from the USA to Mexico, owned greenhouses on plantations in South Carolina. He began growing these plants and sent them to friends and botanical gardens.

Image of Joel Roberts Poinsett courtesy of scencyclopedia.org

Joel’s friend, Robert Buist of Philadelphia, fell in love with the plants when he received one. He began selling them as cut flowers, using the name of Poinsettias. By the early 1900s in America, they sold whole plants for landscaping and pot plants nationwide.

Albert Ecke, a German immigrant, increased the availability of poinsettias in America when he sent cuttings by air instead of fully grown plants by rail. By this time, the Ecke family had a profuse inventory of single-stem plants. His grandson, Paul Ecke, Jr., was strong in marketing, and he developed a brilliant idea for the poinsettias. Why not send them to early television shows so they can be a backdrop during the holidays?

So, they shipped thousands of plants to the Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, and The Tonight Show programs. The public went crazy over the burst of color on the Christmas shows, and their popularity was born. Throughout most of the 20th century, the Ecke family crop accounted for over ninety percent of all poinsettias sold in the United States. The US Congress even deemed December 12 as National Poinsettia Day to commemorate the date of Poinsett’s death.

As Christianity quickly spread across the Americas, Mexicans became the first people to celebrate the holiday flower’s Christian meaning. They saw its red leaves as a symbol of deep love and the blood of Jesus at His crucifixion. Today, the poinsettia, with its star-shaped foliage pattern, is used consistently in churches at Christmastime, for it is thought it resembles the Star of Bethlehem.

I’m ending today’s blog with the Legend of the Poinsettia for your reading enjoyment. Be sure to join us again on Sunday, November 24, for the next “Everything Christmas Blog.” God bless!

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The Legend of the Poinsettia

Pepita, a poor Mexican girl, had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

“I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eye,” said Pedro.

Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro’s kind words: “Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes.” She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain they witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.


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