I know it may be hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is not, at its heart, about football and filling ourselves with food. It's also not "Black Friday Eve." It's about being thankful.
Thanksgiving has its roots in the thankfulness our forebearers had for the salvation they found in the care and love they were shown by the miracle presence of the good neighbors they encountered.
That first Thanksgiving is a remarkable story, and it can easily be heard by Christians as a part of heaven breaking in, i.e., love and compassion abounding.
It is also why the story resonates so well with us. We like it when love and compassion abound. It feels good. It feels right.
In 1620, the pilgrims, the ancestors of modern America (and my church) landed at Plymouth Rock and disembarked from the Mayflower.
After a long cold winter, on March 16, 1621, a Native American named Samoset walked into the Plymouth settlement and stunned the pilgrims by uttering the English word "welcome."
WELCOME! What a sweet word for a neighbor to utter to new neighbors and how especially sweet that word must have been to the half-starved and frightened pilgrims.
Samoset had learned English from the captains of fishing boats that sailed off the coast. Samoset came back the next day with a man named Tisquantum (aka "Squanto").
Tisquantum had previously been captured and taken abroad where he learned English. What a miracle it was that Samoset knew Tisquantum, an English-speaking neighbor, and went and got him to make the welcome he offered even more welcoming.
Soon, Tisquantum taught the pilgrims about native food sources and how to plant and grow crops in America.
Because the pilgrims' neighbors welcomed them with compassion and love, the harvest in the fall was very successful; and the pilgrims had much to celebrate and be thankful for.
With God's help in the hands and words and hearts of Native Americans, they had beaten the odds, and it was time to celebrate.
A day of thanksgiving was declared and shared with the neighboring Native Americans.
Thanksgiving still begins with our remembering the first acts of loving neighbors that occurred in 1620. It is now a holiday that is also about giving thanks for all the blessings way back then and all the blessings we have had ever since.
And it's right that the acts of God, through words and deeds of the Native American neighbors, set the tone for Thanksgiving and our annual thanks for all our blessings.
It is also wonderful that they herald Advent, the very first season in the Christian liturgical year, which we begin celebrating Nov. 27, a time of year when love and compassion abound.
There is much to be thankful for, and this is the time of year we set aside as a nation to remember that.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org.