Thanksgiving Humbug

As I prepare to go to bed and wake up to Thanksgiving Day, I realize what a curmudgeon I must appear to many folks.  I don’t preach to secular holidays (which means Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc.).  And being the introvert that I am (or is it the emotionally cauterized person that I am?  I can never remember when to use which one!) , my experience of these holidays is on the – well, how shall I put it – subdued side.

I’m thankful, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been blessed far beyond my deserving of blessing.  Far beyond what I could ever have dreamed, or earned, or deserved, or merited.  I am woefully inadequately expressive of my thanks for these blessings more often than not.  But I am grateful.  Upon occasion, demonstrably so.  But as I prepare to begin Advent this Sunday, and as I prepare to share Thanksgiving tomorrow with my wife and children and my parents, I can’t help but feel that we all miss the boat.  Not that we’re wrong to be grateful for the things we typically think about on this day.  Not that we shouldn’t be grateful for family, for religious freedom, for house and home and food on the table and yipping dogs at the heels.  Not that we shouldn’t give thanks for closets of clothes and vehicles (even damaged ones awaiting the laborious process of insurance claims).  It’s just that all of these things, well, pale

That rowdy Reformation rocker Martin Luther once penned some of the most true – and least comforting – lyrics ever to be warbled and suffered through by successive generations.  When writing about the attacks that a Christian might have to endure by the enemy Satan, Luther wrote:

And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife.
Let these all be gone.  They yet have nothing won.
The kingdom ours remaineth.
 

Luther probably was a bit of a killjoy around the homestead, but he hits the nail on the head.  Not that I’m not grateful for all of these things, but whether I have them or lose them, what matters most of all, the deepest thing for which I am bound to be eternally grateful, is the salvation that I have through the grace of God by faith in Jesus Christ. 

Oh yes, well.  Certainly so.  Definitely need to remember to be thankful for that as well.  Just makes a bit of an awkward Hallmark card, is all.

We all mouth it.  We all tack it on when we remember or are reminded about what matters most of all.  And that’s just the problem.  It’s so rarely forefront in our minds.  When the turkey is cooking and the family is chattering away (or occupied elsewhere giving us a moment of peace and quiet!), when the football game is on or the Macy’s Day Parade, when all of these beautiful, wonderful things surround us, it’s so easy to forget, or to at least focus less on the gift that we receive in Jesus Christ.  A gift that we anticipate next week with the arrival of Advent, and which we’ll celebrate in full on December 25. 

Anything I have or enjoy or treasure or appreciate is only possible through Him.  Without Him, it doesn’t matter what else I have.  With Him, I could lose everything and still find a peace and strength to carry on.  Thanks requires an object, it requires someone or something to whom we give thanks – something our culture tries very hard to avoid thinking about.  Without that grounding, we might as well celebrate Pat-Yourself-On-the-Back Day.  Or Pretend-That-Life-Is-Good-Day.  Or Imagine-Your-Life-Has-Meaning-Because-Your-Philosophy-Says-It-Doesn’t-Day.  We could celebrate a lot of things, but not thankfulness in the traditional sense of the word. 

So this Thanksgiving, my prayer for myself and my family and for you and your family is that you enjoy that turkey or tofu or gluten-free roll or organic cranberry loaf or whatever it is that is special and delicious and wonderful to you.  That you be genuinely grateful for all of these things.  But that you also remember very clearly, distinctly, perhaps even verbally during the prayer around the table – the One whom we thank, the One who makes all joy possible not just in the here and now but for eternity.  Give thanks for the greatest gift of all – the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. 

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