Since the world outside of the U.S. doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, here in London this past Thursday was, in many ways just another ordinary day. Except that it wasn’t. It was Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
So Doug and I traveled into the city on a jammed packed rush hour train to attend “Thanksgiving Day Service for the American Community in London” at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was grand and gorgeous. We sang Come Ye Thankful People Come and America the Beautiful (sniffle, sniffle) accompanied by a thousand other Americans living in the UK, and a hearty pipe organ. Yet if I could have blinked and transported across the ocean, to my son, to family, to the comfortable familiar, I would have. Ironically, the pilgrims felt more tangible than any other year, and in a teensy way I related to some of their plight: I longed for home, for family an ocean apart. I yearned for the familiar that was left behind.After the service, the woman originally from Delaware sitting next to us with whom we’d been chatting said, “Enjoy becoming in-betweeners”. She knew what she was talking about it, living in London these past thirty years. She knew what straddling the ocean was like, having one foot in a different continent.
Later that evening, we feasted on a modified Thanksgiving dinner of roast chicken, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney, broccoli casserole (made without Velveeta because unless you want to spend 89 pounds on amazon, it’s unattainable). Doug explained the Mayflower account to our guests, a couple from our church, and we went around the table and shared something(s) we were thankful for. It was sweet, and grew the lump in my throat that had formed during the St. Paul’s service. And then yesterday, Sunday, we were treated to real turkey and green bean casserole (doesn’t get any more American than that) and all the fixings by a British husband/American wife family
I’m not going to lie; Thanksgiving Day was difficult. I missed the markings of home, the pie social and parade and the sound of American football, and above all family. But God was good. He graciously gave us three Thanksgiving memories to cherish, and a newfound appreciation for citizenship.
You don’t often consider your country of citizenship, until you’re not living in your country of citizenship, but trying to secure a bank account and a school and a home and a doctor (when your daughter sprains her ankle) as a noncitizen opens your eyes to the fact that Citizenship is everything. My compassion for foreigners and immigrants has been stoked, and I’m in a country where I can understand about 85% of the language. No joke.
Moving somewhere, living somewhere, doesn’t magically turn you into a citizen. Citizenship comes by birth or by deliberate choice and effort. So when Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” this is no sugary sentiment. Citizenship defines who we are, it trumps home. We are making a home here in London, but that doesn’t change our American citizenship. We do live here on earth, but as believers in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven.
And the citizens that make up heaven will be from every tribe, tongue, and corner of the world, and that is something to be thankful for.