I am writing you because we are approaching the national holiday of Thanksgiving. For many years I sort of ignored this holiday, only observing it when we sat down to eat my mother’s great Thanksgiving dinner. It was something that I didn’t pay much attention to because Christmas was coming. Now I have a different attitude about this day and I am pleased that our Nation observes it as a national holiday even though we live in a world that takes thankfulness for granted. Thanksgiving reminds me of the beautiful movie “Babette’s Feast” which takes place in a very small and obscure village in Scandinavia. Two major figures in the movie are elderly and pious Christian sisters, Martine (named after Martin Luther) and Philippa (named after Luther’s friend, Philip Melanchthon). They live with other white haired rural residents that are becoming a dwindling brood. They are daughters of a Pastor who has long since died.
Into this world comes a beautiful and charming opera singer named Babette Hersant. She has fallen on hard times and comes recommended as a housekeeper for these two old maids. One day she wins the lottery of 10.000 francs, which would allow her to return to France and her former lifestyle, but instead she chooses the occasion of the Pastor’s 100th birthday to prepare a feast. She sends for never before seen ingredients to prepare this meal. The menu has turtle soup, caviar, special French sauces with foie gras and truffle sauce, chesses of all types, figs, grapes, pineapples, expensive wine and champagne. In addition, Babette purchases the finest china, flatware, crystal and linen to ensure this luxurious meal is eaten in fine style. After the meal, the sisters assume that Babette will return to Paris but she tells them that all of her money is gone. They are aghast because they couldn’t believe that dinner for twelve at “Café Anglais” has a price of 10,000 francs. This is what Babette paid for the ingredients that she cooked for the old people of this village. They tell her “now you will be poor for the rest of your life”, Babette replies,” an artist is never poor”.
When I first saw this film in the 80’s, I was moved to tears. There is something wonderful about extravagant generosity where people enjoy giving and where giving comes from a thankful heart. There have been times in my life when I have not had a lot of money, but I’ve never felt poor, in fact most of the time, I felt privileged. Thanksgiving time is a time to slow down and reflect upon how much we do have and how gracious God has been. No matter if it has been a difficult and challenging year where tears have often appeared on your cheeks, there are still occasions to be grateful, generous and forgiving.
I hope to see you all on Thanksgiving Eve at our altar with thankful hearts.