News to Be Thankful For
When I think back over the year 2020, thankfulness is not my first reaction; it’s probably not the first thing on your mind either. It’s been a very tough year on so many fronts. But as we enter the holiday season and prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week (even if it’s not the same as we’re used to), I wanted to take some time to be thankful for the great things that have happened in 2020.
Why is it that we’re far quicker to focus on the negative and overlook the positive? It’s a battle to focus on the good things, the blessings, the trials that bring about perseverance. We know biblically that we should count it all joy (James 1:2), that discipline is for our good (Heb. 12:11), that our sufferings are not to be compared with what’s to come (Rom. 8:18), and that God works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28), but it’s easy to forget. These promises sometimes feel like distant assurances for other people in other times. But nothing could be further from the truth. Weeks like this give us the opportunity to remember, to be encouraged, and to give thanks.
In the last few sentences of 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives us a timely reminder as we enter Thanksgiving week; “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It can sound trite to say, “Be thankful,” especially when you don’t know the context. How do you know what I’m going through? But these are God’s words and he does know. He knew when he inspired Paul to write them. He saw 2020, and everything else we go through when and they are as true now as they were when they were written. Giving thanks doesn’t require us to adopt a naive view of the world where we pretend everything is going well and smother sorrows and disappoints with platitudes. The wonderful thing about God’s promises about the future is that he doesn’t just guarantee that things will turn out the way he designed them too, he shows up to personally guarantee it. He’s commanded us to give thanks to him, because he will be there through it all.
As I’ve been searching my own heart for spots of thankfulness this week, I thought it might be nice to review some of the many things we have to be thankful for in the news. Enjoy some positive stories, some great reads, and some great listens for Thanksgiving week!
The speed with which vaccines have been produced for the coronavirus is nothing short of miraculous. Pfizer and Moderna have conducted extremely successful trials and applied for FDA authorization to begin distribution. As of this morning, Oxford and AstraZenica announced another promising vaccine. their vaccine is 70% effective with the possibility of an even higher effectiveness depending on dosage. This third vaccine may be even easier to distribute and administer than the first two.
Even CNN is getting excited about the vaccines. Jake Tapper interviewed Dr. Moncef Slaoui yesterday about the safety and the timeline of the vaccines due to Operation Warp Speed. We may have vaccines ready for distribution as early as December 12. There’s a long road ahead, but we may reach 70% immunity by mid-2021.
“Peace in the Middle East” has long been shorthand for the political moonshot. Presidents and other global leaders have tried for decades in the modern era to work out a signature peace deal between the warring groups. If you look back through history, every major empire from the Persians to the Greeks to the British have struggled to pacify the Middle East. Now it looks like there might be a path to peace.
This weekend, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in one of the most historic and monumental diplomatic meetings in the last 50 years. This could be a fundamental breakthrough in the ME as we know it. With both countries building on a good relationship with the US, other Arab countries have recognized the strategic opportunity to pivot away from Iran and the Palestinians and toward a broader coalition of countries fighting radical terrorism and a working relationship with Israel. The UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan have begun normalizing relationships with Israel and more countries are expected to follow. Saudi Arabia is the largest and most powerful country to begin talks with Israel.
Things can and do change quickly in this part of the world, and the transition to the Biden presidency will pose formidable challenges at this new order, but for the time being, this is the most promising run at peace in the Middle East in generations.
A Heritage of Liberty
The last week featured two important anniversaries in our country. First, on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered the most famous speech in American History as he dedicated the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 272 words, he captured the spirit of the nation and looked ahead through the bloodiest hour of the nation to the centuries of freedom to come. It’s interesting to note that Lincoln wasn’t even the keynote speaker that day. He was tasked with sharing a few brief remarks before the main speaker, but those remarks have come to define the central tenets of the republic.
This week, Allen Guelzo, one of the nation’s leading authorities on Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address discussed the legacy of the speech and the man who gave it 157 years ago.
Second, in December 1620, the pilgrims on the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. The 440th anniversary of this journey marks an important stage in the history of the nation. The Christian pilgrims who came to the new world established the threads of liberty that would come together over a century later in the American constitution. One year later, they would celebrate the first Thanksgiving in the new world. As the American founding has been under assault, it’s important to remember our heritage and the history of thanksgiving in our nation. In the latest issue of the New Criterion, two stories describe the Christian history of Thanksgiving. In “Like a Rock,” James Panero remembers the Mayflower pilgrims and in “The Founders’ Priceless Legacy” Myron Magnet remembers the history of the founders and their relevance today. You can also listen to Magnet’s address, here.
Can you imagine the lockdowns and quarantines without modern technology? Just a decade ago, life at home and social distancing would have been drastically different. Companies like Zoom, Netflix, Uber Eats and other delivery companies have seen their business skyrocket in 2020. Amazon doubled its profits during the first quarter of the pandemic. We might discuss the pros and cons of Amazon’s gargantuan share of global ecommerce, but for the time being, it’s very nice to have quick deliveries.
Many Americans have been able to work from home using recent advances in technology, we’ve been able to see and talk to loved ones through video technology, and we’re booking doctors’ appointments and Covid tests at a rate unheard of just 20 years ago. These technological advancements may also have some downsides, and we can always think of improvements, but there’s a lot to be thankful for in the ways recent technology has enabled us to live during the pandemic.
Best Book Lists
It’s that time of year when the best books of 2020 lists begin to emerge. World Magazine has a great list of Christian books from 2020. Penguin has a few interesting titles as do the New York Times and the Goodreads 2020 choice awards. There are many more to come in the next few weeks. Be on the lookout for our picks from 2020!
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak.