I worry about Thanksgiving Day. It increasingly seems to be losing its position as a holiday. Preparations for Christmas are in full swing prior to Thanksgiving. There was a radio station in Staunton, Virginia, that began playing Christmas music 24/7 on November 15 and continued non-stop until midnight on December 25. As the clock flipped to the day after Christmas, the music changed back to their regular format. I always thought, “Just as the church starts celebrating Christmas, the world around us is boxing it up for another year.”
But this is about Thanksgiving, which is increasingly getting lost in the midst of “Black Friday” sales that no longer start at midnight on Thanksgiving night but in late afternoon/early evening. Thanksgiving is becoming little more than a speed bump on the rush to Christmas day.
That is too bad, as Thanksgiving is the atmosphere of faith. As oxygen is necessary for life and breath, without thanksgiving, faith would be choked out like a fire starved of oxygen. Cicero, the great Roman orator and philosopher, said, "A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue but is the parent of all other virtues."
This was certainly understood by many Biblical writers, from various Psalmists to the Apostle Paul. Paul begins with thanksgiving when he wrote to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians. You get the picture! Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States said, "It is only when [people] begin to worship that they begin to grow." Every day cannot be Christmas, but each day can include thanksgiving. The spirit of Christmas may come and go with the season, but thanksgiving is to be a daily part of our lives.
As Thanksgiving Day draws near once again, for what are you thankful? Do you spend time contemplating the reasons for which you are thankful? Andrew Greeley, the late Catholic priest, sociologist, and novelist said, "Contemplation is a casualty of the America way of life. We simply don't have time for it ... our nation has so much leisure time that it has a leisure problem, and yet it lacks the essential leisure of contemplation."
Generation by generation, are we losing the understanding and ability of how to perceive and put into proper perspective God’s role in our daily life? This thanksgiving may we take a timeout from the turkey and tasks of the holidays, from friends, food, and football, from sleeping and shopping to be thankful. Thankful for our individual blessings, our family connections, and the ministries and mission which shape our congregations as we seek to hold forth the good news of Jesus Christ!
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk