Thanksgiving weekend is full of tradition for many Americans. For my family it’s a time that begins before the last Thursday of November. Allow me to get deep for a sec…
The autumn season forces upon us a sense of mortality as death permeates the environment we live in. The leaves turn their brilliant colors as the temperature drops, warming our bodies (and souls) as we put on an extra layer of clothing. By November the rainbow of life has given way to the brittle brown of death, ushering it in with a procession of bare boned tree branches. Hunting season opens and though we enjoy the fruit of the harvest and the time spent with friends and family before, during, and after the hunt, the spilling of blood and the meat before us calls to mind, even if subconsciously, the necessity of death to sustain life. By the time the grand Thanksgiving Day feast is placed on the table, the hearts of all truly give thanks to God for the abundance of temporal gifts that He gives to all people, but especially for the eternal gift of salvation given in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross!
You see, Thanksgiving Day is not some superficial holiday where we gorge ourselves with food and mindlessly veg out in front of football, although eating and America’s favorite sport have become part of our celebration. And although it’s not part of the historic church calendar it’s very much a Christian day of giving thanks to the One who daily provides for us. The symbolic meal typified by the turkey harkens back to a very real day of giving thanks for sustenance in the face of a very real death.
The deep seated traditions of the day don’t stop on Thanksgiving. In fact, the opposite is true. Many Americans see Turkey Day as the beginning of the Christmas season. This is the beginning of rekindled family time, reconnection, the purposeful remembering of others and not only that but the remembering and serving of others, it’s the beginning of joyful parties and celebrations rooted in one way or another – though often veiled and obscured, distorted and purposefully disconnected – to the loving gift God gave in His Son born of the virgin Mary. The Christian traditions that Americans (our heritage is greatly influenced by a variety of Christian denominations creating a Christian season that is unique to this country while not being completely isolated from the rest of Christendom) have established surrounding this time of year flow beautifully together with nothing but superimposed time stamps impeding on a broad season of thanksgiving and rejoicing that causes repentant hearts to swell with belief.
For my family, the day after we feast we bust out all the Christmas decorations, and in exuberant anticipation of Christmas we adorn the house with all those memory-filled ornaments that call to mind family and past experiences naturally connected through the common activity of our lives to the incarnation of God for the forgiveness of our sins. The Christmas songs reverberate off every wall in the house with delight – the kids singing along at the top of their lungs that they “want a hippopotamus for Christmas.” Before the weekend is over the house is covered, inside and out (and also the Westy this year), with that which directs our thoughts to what truly matters – yes, even light bulbs are filled with Christological meaning. Down time is filled with conversations of past Christmas’ with mom and dad reminding the kids just what the holiday is all about. The first Christmas movie is turned on (This year it was Jingle All the Way) as warm feelings fill the room. By Sunday our Advent wreath was lit – the reoccurring question about the colors of the candles once again surfacing, confirming the importance of tradition (in the home as well as at church).
It’s a beautiful thing! It truly is.
May you have a very merry Christmas.
© 2013 Tyrel Bramwell