Sunday, May 3, 2009

Australian National Day of Thanksgiving

Saturday 30th May this year is to be celebrated as Australia’s National Day of Thanksgiving.
“The National Day of Thanksgiving is a unique opportunity for Australians to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation and to demonstrate the God given values of honour, respect, thankfulness and gratitude towards our fellow man that have made us the great nation we are. It is a day for us to pause as a nation and say thank you to God and to each other for those many things we often take for granted but which really make our lives worth living. Let us use this day to be a blessing to those who have been a blessing to us during the past year.”

In a Message of support for National Day of Thanksgiving 2009, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia said; “How important it is to spend time in quiet gratitude, and to voice our thanks to those who have earned it. Our National Day of Thanksgiving is a marvellous opportunity to remind ourselves how much we have to be thankful for, and, though we walk through tough times and shadowed valleys, to acknowledge the efforts and contribution of those who walk with and before us.” (Reference )

It is interesting to note that our National Day of Thanksgiving is on the Whitsuntide week-end. Not many of us in Australia are familiar with the name “Whitsuntide” any more, although it is still commonly used in Europe. It is the weekend that falls seven weeks (50 days) after Easter – Easter being just after the March equinox – and hence Whitsuntide marks the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere summer. This is no doubt a good time for celebration in that region! The name was also well recognised in the UK until more recent times when the associated holiday became known just as Spring Holiday, and aligned in date with the USA Memorial Day Holiday on the last weekend in May. Because the date of Whitsuntide is related to phases of the moon, it is a variable date and moves like Easter.

The need for community sharing, networking and giving of thanks was recognised in the lifestyle set out in the Bible. God instructed His people to gather together three times every year. In early Biblical times these gatherings, or Feasts, were known respectively as Passover (or the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or The Feast of Weeks) and Tabernacles (or The Feast of Booths).

In the Christian era these Feasts generally became the periods of Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas. Passover directly aligns with Easter, Pentecost with Whitsuntide, and there is a loose association between Tabernacles, which heralded the commencement of the New Year, and Christmas. Some Christian groups are more particular about the time of these celebrations, and look to more specific dates. Everyone was encouraged to attend these Feasts and partake of the fellowship offered by the opportunity.

We all know of Easter and Christmas, but the time of Pentecost, or Whitsuntide, is recognised as the Birthday of the Christian Church. It remembers the day, ten days after the ascension of Jesus Christ, when God evidenced His Power through the presence of His Spirit. The Disciples of Jesus were meeting together and when they spoke in their own language, were understood in the native language of all those who heard. It was as a result of the events of that day that the identity of the Christian Church went forward with a unique message and subsequently spread around the Globe.

It is perhaps contrary to the original intent of its Author that there are so many different “brands” of Christian churches today, but they all carry a similar basic message. The common denominator is proclaiming the Mission of Jesus Christ in His sacrifice and resurrection at Easter and the giving of Power at Whitsuntide. Through a personal acceptance of His sacrifice, we can be reconciled to God. Also for many believers there is the promise of His return to fulfil the lifecycle of this phase of God’s Plan of creation and the herald the beginning of the next, which we remember, among other things, at Christmas.

For Christians there is much Thanksgiving in recognising and accepting the greatness of our God, and the grace we receive through Jesus Chris at all times. However, Whitsuntide is a special time for thanksgiving and celebration.

The details of the Biblical Feasts and how they have influenced the development of our society makes an interesting study. If you would like to discuss this in more detail please feel free to come along to our Church some time (see Church Notices for dates and times), or to call into a Church closer to you where you would no doubt find someone happy to talk with you about these things.