Up until a few weeks ago, I was not excited about Thanksgiving. Truth be told, I have been cynical about holidays in general for years now, which has prompted more than one “this holiday is different” blog or Sunday School lesson in days of yore as I tried to overcome negative attitudes. Rather than follow that pattern again, I’d like to get to the point and simply offer you an expanded view of Thanksgiving, one that follows a pattern I have recently begun applying to all holidays. Maybe there will be nothing here for you except a reminder, but even in this I will be glad.
Note: I won’t mind too terribly if you associate these with the three ghosts of A Christmas Carol… just don’t let this limit your view!
This is the part of Thanksgiving we usually do really well. After all, it’s Thanksgiving as it was meant to be celebrated. We thank God (not sure who else one would thank, but that’s a topic for another day) for all that we have now, however grand or meager. America is still one of the richest nations in the world—and by now I hope we realize this is God’s grace and not our merit. Even the poorest of us have a great deal compared with the rest of the world. We are also thankful for the things money cannot buy: friends, family. I am also thankful for Jesus saving me from my sins—which seem to multiply each year. The list goes on and on, and I have noticed some of my Facebook friends publicly listing more and more things each day. I think this is great. This is the Thanksgiving of tradition, and what a wonderful tradition it is.
However, the main reason for any holiday is to remember. Some of us do this better than others. We look back over the years and celebrate things that should never be forgotten. What events or people can you look back on in your life with gratitude, what memories should not be forgotten? I remember a time when my family was low on money and our loved ones chipped in and helped us through that tough time, often anonymously, sometimes even miraculously. This should never be forgotten. I remember a day when some of my closest friends sat in a circle in a small hotel room in Atlanta and just encouraged me (we took turns—it wasn’t just about me!) and how much that meant, especially coming out of a dark time in my life. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Even if you feel you have nothing to be thankful for now (which I don’t buy if you can afford the online access to read this) there are definitely things worth celebrating from your past. Some of you may have to work harder than others at this, but it is worth the effort.
This is perhaps the most profound part of Thanksgiving. It isn’t that the other emphases are somehow lacking, but to me this is the most worth celebrating and yet I would venture to say it is by far the most neglected. I hadn’t thought about it myself until I watched the film Babette’s Feast in class this summer. Trying not to give too much away, the movie features a woman who throws a lavish feast for her aging and austere friends. It is the best meal they have ever had in their lives—they did not know food could even taste that good. The closing line of the movie—and I wish I could quote it verbatim but memory and Google fail me—is something like, “If food can taste this great here just imagine what heaven will be like!”
Any time Christians gather to feast we are looking forward with hope to a day when we will feast with Christ and the saints who have gone before. The Bible calls this the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and it celebrates the time when the Church is finally united with Christ. In some ways it is the kickoff party to eternity. Any meal with friends or family is a chance to remember what Christ did at His first coming and look forward to His second coming—like we do in communion. But Thanksgiving is an excuse to go all out, to lavish upon your guests all you have to give—not only in food, but in fellowship, to bring them to that point where they walk away saying, “Wow! And heaven will be better than even this!”
One of my historic complaints about Thanksgiving was that it had become a day of gluttony. But as I understand it there are times when God is happy to see us bursting at the seams (maybe even a little drunk?) The trick is not to do it every day, and that when you do it you do it with the right motivations. Don’t eat compulsively but enjoy every mouthful. Don’t sit down for the food only, but for the people sharing your table. And don’t dare walk away hungry when God has provided you so much. (Unless you and your guests choose to celebrate in a different way. What can you do to make yourself and others the most thankful to God today? Do that.)
I feel as though I have only scratched the surface, but in more words than I had planned. I hope today finds you thankful for what is, what was, and what glorious things are to come for those of you in Christ Jesus.
God bless, and Happy Thanksgiving!