Thanksgiving: The forgotten holiday

Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It could be called The Forgotten Holiday.

The mainstream “decoration gurus” skip right past it. There are few lawn ornaments to commemorate it, and fewer songs to celebrate it. Instead, it is quietly sandwiched between “Gimme Candy” and “Gimme Presents.”

My job at Thanksgiving is always to carve the turkey.

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If cooked properly—something that strategically is not my job—the tender meat nearly falls off the bone by itself. But every year while doing my part, I look for the wish bone. You know, the V-shaped bone that you and a buddy pull apart to see who gets the longer side.

The goal—supposedly, whoever gets the longer side will have a wish come true. Sadly, I think I’ve managed to make even Thanksgiving itself about me getting more!

And the retailers don’t help much, either. The quiet day of giving thanks is quickly followed by the biggest sale day of the year. In fact, people who lay in bed far into the morning on Thanksgiving are suddenly energized to be up before dawn. They push through crowds outside a store that is promising to save them a few dollars on something society has convinced them they really must have.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with turkey, shopping, sleeping in or saving money. But maybe we’ve missed something if we rush through the one day of the year that has been set aside to remember how blessed we are.

And we are blessed!

Most of us have someplace to live. It may be rented or financed, but we live there. It may be too cramped, or in need of repair. But we can go there at the end of the day and know we won’t be wet from the rain that falls that night. Much of the world would be grateful to live in the shed where we store our tools, the attic where we pile our stuff, or even in the garage where we shelter our car.

We are blessed to have something to eat. To prove it, we begin a marathon on Thanksgiving that doesn’t end until we begin our diet in the New Year. We pile our tables with a variety of tasty dishes until there is hardly room for the plates. As we enjoy our feast, we are comfortably oblivious to the fact that there are thousands that are dying because they can’t even scrape together what we will throw in the trash.

We are blessed to have family and friends. Sure, some of them are rather peculiar. Somebody won’t know when to leave, somebody will talk too loud, and somebody will be irritable. But they care for us. Most of us are not utterly alone as we go through life.

We have so, so much to be thankful for!

But even if those blessings were to evade us, we would still have reason to give thanks. In fact, the most thankful people I have ever met are those who have so little that their hearts aren’t attached to this world. Instead, they are thankful for what they have in the next.

In the Bible, Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Corinthian Christ-followers, “How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (1st Corinthians 15:57 NLT).

Paul knew that mankind’s biggest struggle wasn’t against the economy, but against the consequences of our sin. And he knew that God made a way for our sin to be forgiven, even before we understood that it was a problem. That is why Jesus Christ was born as the baby of Bethlehem. That is why he was crucified, even though he was sinless. That is why he rose again, leaving the empty tomb of Easter. He paid for our sin, and guaranteed us a life in heaven. If we receive that Jesus as our forgiver and guide, we have something to be thankful about every day—regardless of the economy, our health, or which side of the wish bone we pulled.

Which is Thanksgiving for you … a pattern of life, or a nearly-forgotten holiday?