I love Thanksgiving, I refuse to call it “turkey day” or “the day before Black Friday”. To me, calling it those things is like calling Christmas, Xmas. Thanksgiving’s name reflects what the holiday is all about. We live in a very blessed country, one of abundance and freedoms known to few in the world at any time. Yes we are very blessed, and we should be thankful. But, that is not what I am writing about.
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that I believe is perfectly placed, and has an almost “accidental”, yet wonderful context.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, food, football and fun; you provide the order. The quintessential American holiday, Norman Rockwell provided us with the image almost all of us associate with Thanksgiving. A golden brown bird being delivered to the table by mom. Papa behind her proudly eyeing the feast he has been blessed to provide. Family and friends seated around the table; laughing, talking and admiring the bounty as they anticipate the feast to come. Yes, we are all familiar with the image…
I have hosted the Thanksgiving holiday several times since being married; I have never once been able to provide this “perfect Thanksgiving”. Let’s survey a sample of the damage spanning just the last several years.
- Turkeys undercooked more than an hour after the planned dinner time, known forevermore as the “no meat Thanksgiving.” This will not be a new tradition.
- Dessert jumped out of the pan and into the ovens’ gas burners, providing all the guests with the lovely smell of burning sugar.
- One year we decided to do Thanksgiving at the “famous” AQ Chicken House restaurant. Yes, a Chicken House. They said “reservations are required,” we made them. Come to find out they only do that for marketing purposes and we had to wait an hour to be seated. Those ordering turkey for dinner were told a few would get turkey as they were almost out. Several hundred patrons were still waiting to be seated!
- Mental drain and loss of holiday spirit Thanksgiving evening trying to get prepared to open the store on Black Friday morning. (If you have worked it you know what I am saying, if not, count yourself blessed)
So here I am, launching into the Christmas season, this past year being one of the hardest and most challenging of my life, finishing off one of the first of several big holy days (BLACK FRIDAY IS NOT A HOLIDAY!!!) in a short span and I am tired, stressed and probably feeling my failures more than I should. I am thankful… thankful? After putting away the Rockwell ideal and surface sentiment, what is Thanksgiving and how am I to be thankful?
“The early settlers, “their minds gloomy and discontented,” frequently fasted to seek relief from their distress, he (Benjamin Franklin) recounted. Just when they were about to declare another day of fasting, “a farmer of plain sense” pointed out that “the inconveniences they suffered, and concerning which they had so often wearied heaven with their complaints, were not so great.” Instead of another fast, the farmer argued, they should have a feast to give thanks.” http://www.geneveith.com/2012/11/22/when-to-fast-and-when-to-feast/
So, I went for a walk. It was getting cold. It was dark. And after a few blocks of asking questions I saw the light.
I live in a great city neighborhood. Bungalow houses from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s mixed with neighborhood shops, churches and parks. I imagine this being the kind of neighborhood where I could bump into Archie Bunker, Roseanne Connor or Ray Romano and his clan. I love living here.
This neighborhood dresses up for the holidays. Decorated porches and scary pumpkins greet the welcomed trick-or-treaters of Halloween. Blowup turkeys and straw scarecrows announce its Thanksgiving. And yesterday, Thanksgiving day, the first push of Christmas lights went up…. and that was the light I saw, and the messenger sent to me.
It was not an amazing experience, not an epiphany, it was fairly simple. Angles did not come from the heavens with trumpets blaring and voices singing… no, these displays were more like shepherds coming to the stable, wondering at what they saw, giving thanks for the gift they were uniquely given. At that moment, I too had to recognize the great and unique gifts I have been given this year, and I gave thanks.
The traditional Christian church year ends this week, and the Advent season, the start of the new year, starts next week. The season of Advent is the beginning of the Christian church year. Advent is the liturgical season that prepares us for Christmas, the arrival of the Christ, bodily, into our world. It is a season of promises, hopes, and dreams fulfilled, both in time and out of time. It is a season for remembering what God has done for us personally, for the human race, and on a grand scale, for all time. Advent is a set period of time, occurring four Sundays before December 25th. Thus Advent can start November 27 through December 3, on the heels of Thanksgiving.
I don’t believe the Thanksgiving holiday, holy day, was put at this time on accident. There are many ancient thanksgiving traditions, but they all occur at the end of various harvest seasons. It is the American tradition that has the Thanksgiving holiday placed well past most major harvest periods and instead at the end of the Christian church year. No, I have a very hard time seeing this as an accident.
What a great time to reflect on what God has given us throughout the old year in preparation for the great gift He gives us on Christmas. He has prepared a time to look back, for our sake, to see how He has worked in our daily lives, blessed us and given of Himself to us. And once we are done looking back, celebrating and giving thanks, we are called to look forward. Looking forward to the one gift that ensures our salvation, once and for all, for all eternity.
This past year was a difficult one for most people in the world; we see the news, have experienced some of it ourselves and understand many of the reasons. Isn’t it great that we live in a nation that not only continues to be blessed, but also calls on us to recognize those blessings and take a day to give thanks? And then allows us to celebrate, outlandishly, the greatest gift of all!
This is a time for Thanksgiving indeed!
PS: While it was a year unlike any other, and while my holiday plans were once again foiled by gremlins, it was a year of great blessing for my family and me. This year truly was one unlike any other, and no matter what happens down the road we will have an opportunity to share what God has done with and for us. For those that don’t know the story, I will not recount all that He has done, but if asked I will be more than happy to share. Thank you to all who have been a part of this past year, for being a blessing in our lives, and for helping us transition to a new phase in our life together.
And for those who may have the “privilege” of being invited to our home, turn away and run! For the select few who are brave enough, you are very welcome in our home, we are honored that you come, and we apologize for whatever is about to happen. It is with love and gratitude that we welcome friend and family at any time, just beware, we have gremlins.