Archives For Thanksgiving

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the seriesThanksgiving

Our local newspaper recently ran a cartoon featuring a turkey that had been trampled to death by hooves. One bystander said to another, “It looks like Thanksgiving got run over by a reindeer.”

Thanksgiving Got Run Over By a ReindeerIt seems like every year the Christmas decorations and merchandise in stores and coffee shops come out a little earlier. No problem there. We all love the cozy nostalgia and holiday beverages that the Christmas season brings. We can’t really extend the holidays into January, because keeping the holiday décor on display after the new year comes across as lazy. So why not start the celebration early?

I honestly don’t have a problem with Christmas décor showing up before Thanksgiving week. But I do wonder what it means.

I’m just speculating here, but it does seem to say something about the way we view holidays. As far as I can tell, people aren’t putting their Christmas decorations out early. Corporations are doing this. It’s no surprise that when corporations look at a holiday, they see dollar signs. The question for them is not what the holiday means (unless this helps their marketing strategy) or how it might best be celebrated (unless that means celebrating with their product). The question is how they can make the most money off of the holiday. Smart. Many companies do this well and reap the financial rewards.

Though many of us do get caught up in the materialistic exploitations of the holidays, human beings tend to view holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas differently than corporations see them. To us, these are opportunities to take a break from work, to spend some time with family and friends, and to celebrate life and love.

If we all viewed holidays this way, we would take them one at a time, treasuring each one until we are forced back to the office. We would enjoy Thanksgiving, then head back to the business of our daily lives, then begin to look forward to everything that Christmas means and brings.

And yet Christmas is in full swing before the first Thanksgiving travelers have hit the road. What do we do about this?

I think we take it with a grain of salt. Go ahead and enjoy the Christmassy atmosphere our corporate friends have brought us so early. Feel free to get in the “Christmas spirit” even. But let’s not forget what makes our holidays great.

The presents we love shopping for would be meaningless without loved ones to give them to. Our days off would be boring apart from the realization that we are more than the goods we produce and services we provide. The nostalgia we feel around Christmassy décor would not exist without the fond memories of real people, real life, and true love that it conjures in our minds.

So let’s celebrate Christmas as early as we can, but let’s not let the CEOs of the world make us believe that their products and decorations are the holidays. If that were true, then we would have just lost Thanksgiving. No, what the Christmas vendors bring us are byproducts—commemorative artifacts testifying to the goodness of life as celebrated at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Let’s not confuse marketing campaigns with the substance of these wonderful holidays.

 

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the seriesThanksgiving

Gluttonous ThanksgivingThanksgiving dinner is problematic. As the food gets passed around the table, my plate fills up too quickly. It literally overflows. I would say that my eyes are bigger than my stomach, but somehow it all gets in there. I tend to hit Thanksgiving dinner pretty hard. I’m guessing you do to. There are typically two non-negotiable events on Thanksgiving day: (1) gathering around the table to eat, and (2) scattering around the house to sleep off our over-filled stomachs.

What do we do about this? Can we justify this type of gluttony in the name of Thanksgiving?

Gluttony is an interesting concept. We are quick to condemn it, but we may not have as firm a basis for doing so as we think. The Hebrew word for “glutton” is used three times in the Old Testament:

  • Deuteronomy 21:20 – “they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’”
  • Proverbs 23:20-21 – “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
  • Proverbs 28:7 – “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.”

The Hebrew word generally means “worthless or insignificant,” and can sometimes be used to convey treating something lightly, which is how gluttony relates to eating. We treat food as nothing, so we scarf it down in large amounts.

But look at these verses. Only Proverbs 23 mentions food at all. And even this is not clear. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) explains, “It is possible that the reference is not to the amount of food eaten (i.e. gluttony) but to the manner of banqueting.” The King James Version translates the phrase as “riotous eaters of flesh,” emphasizing the approach to eating rather than the amount eaten.

All this means that the Old Testament tells us very little about gluttony. TWOT summarizes: “The general condemnation of gluttony as a sin rests largely upon the interpretation of this word in these few places.”

When we turn to the New Testament, things get even more interesting. Do you know who the only person to be accused of gluttony in the New Testament is? Jesus!

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7:34 and Matthew 11:19)

Have you ever been accused of gluttony? If so, you’re in good company! Jesus celebrated life. He made wine for a wedding celebration. He feasted. So much so that he was accused of being a glutton.

What does all of this mean for our Thanksgiving dinner? It means that we should go for it! Eat more than you normally would. Feasting is a way of enjoying God’s bountiful provision. It’s a way of celebrating the life that God so generously bestows. We don’t need to feel guilty about taking a day to feast.

But we also can’t forget that we need to be good stewards of our bodies. There is more to life than food. Our feasting will sometimes need to be balanced by fasting. And we also need to remember that while we enjoy God’s good gifts, we need to be careful to share those gifts with others. If your Thanksgiving dinner is celebrated with a sense of entitlement that does not care about those around the world who regularly go without food, then you need to repent.

God’s gifts are meant to be enjoyed. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4). And God’s gifts are also meant to be shared. So enjoy your Thanksgiving feast, continue to pursue justice in the earth, and continue to care for the poor and to ensure that all of God’s people can share in his good gifts.

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the seriesThanksgiving

People Centered ThanksgivingEvery year, as we gather around the Thanksgiving table, every member of my family shares something that he or she is thankful for. I love this time. I love so much about Thanksgiving. I know that many people have difficult family dynamics, but both sides of my family are warm, loving, and essentially likeminded. It is always encouraging to go around the table and hear what these godly people are thankful for.

What are you most thankful for?

When I think about what my family and I are most thankful for, it’s surprising how ordinary these things are. We say things like family, work, solid relationships, children, grandchildren, food, salvation, freedom, etc.

How boring, right? We have these things year round. Assuming your year went decently, these things were a part of your daily routine. Shouldn’t we be wowed more by the major events and surprises in our lives than by the monotony of day to day life?

Perhaps Thanksgiving is nothing more than a big event that draws our attention back to the boring things that really matter.

We know that thankful hearts need to continue beyond our Thanksgiving vacations. If the things that we are most thankful for around the Thanksgiving table remain with us every day of our lives, then remaining thankful should be easy. Right?

It is a sad irony that we most often forget to appreciate those things with which we remain in constant contact. My iPhone was a miracle of technology and design until I began using it every day. Now it’s “just a smart phone.”

On a more serious note, my daughters caused me to weep when they first entered this world. And now they’re the most constant part of my everyday life. How do I remain thankful for these unbelievably precious gifts from God?

Much of this comes from taking time to remember how thankful we really are. This is why times like Thanksgiving are so valuable. But my wife and I often look at each other and remind ourselves how blessed we are. We can’t believe what God has given us and—even more significantly—who He is for us. We keep each other thankful in this way.

But there are also boring ways to be thankful for boring things. We show our appreciation for God’s gifts through the way we steward them. If my daughters are incredible gifts from God, then I should open my mouth and tell him “thank you.” But I should also be careful to treat them as gifts in the way I interact with them on a daily basis. We probably don’t think of our daily interactions as forms of thanksgiving, but faithfully stewarding God’s gifts is the best way to thank God for them—whether that gift is family, work, or your very salvation.

So however you are celebrating Thanksgiving this year, don’t forget to be thankful for the boring things in life. And don’t forget to do this through your words and through your faithful stewardship.

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