First off, this post has nothing to do with the Dr. Who anniversary, which I am celebrating, just not here. This blog post is about the one nationally recognized holiday in the United States over which many families experience the reality of the ambiguity of national celebrations, many pastors have become particularly defensive, and marketing companies have decided to skip entirely. Yup. This is a post about Thanksgiving.
Thanks be to God
To start off, I have to drop some Luther on you. From the Small Catechism, starting with the first article of the Apostles' Creed.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth
What is this? Answer:
I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property--along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
Now the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer:
Give us today our daily bread.
What is this? Answer:
In fact, God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving.
What then does "daily bread" mean? Answer:
Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
And finally the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer:
And remit our debts, as we remit what our debtors owe.
What is this? Answer:
We ask in this prayer that our heavenly Father would not regard our sins nor deny these petitions on their account, for we are worthy of nothing for which we ask, nor have we earned it. Instead we ask that God would give us all things by grace, for we daily sin much and indeed deserve only punishment. So, on the other hand, we, too, truly want to forgive heartily and to do good gladly to those who sin against us.
-- Quotes from The Book of Concord, eds. Kolb and Wengert, pp. 354-5, 357, 358.
Any time we as Christians give thanks, it is helpful to remind ourselves that we are also thanking God, who is the source of all things, and who continues to give freely, even to the likes of me.
The Commercialism Oddity
So why all the angst about Thanksgiving being overrun by Christmas? Yes, there will be families whose Thanksgiving celebrations will have to conclude early so they can work or go shopping on Thanksgiving or the day after. Yes, I saw that Thanksgiving was skipped entirely in the stores, which around here were setting up for Christmas before Halloween. Yes, many people will spend too much money on plastic crap and cheap clothing from sweat shops in other countries. Yes, yes, the commercialism of Christmas and the general end of year holiday season is annoying and offensive.
Just like the rest of the year.
That's the part we miss, both about Thanksgiving and about Black Friday. In Black Friday and the developing parallels, we see the desire in Americans for nice things purchased at low prices, and we're willing to give up time, sleep, and part of a day off work for the chance to do that shopping. The particular thing about Black Friday is how low the prices get on some items, which focuses the consumeristic tendencies, but this doesn't mean they're absent the rest of the year, just muted.
That we as a country still have any time set aside to give thanks is actually a positive thing. Yes, the marketers are encroaching on that time, but have you bothered to figure out why? Giving thanks isn't profitable, so they don't market it. They have to attempt eliding Halloween and Christmas, because they can market those holidays and make money off of them. But Thanksgiving they have to skip.
Sure, I've heard or read words of thanks from various business and companies in the past few weeks, but at their best that's all they've been--words, given out of obligation from a national holiday. At their worst, the words have been backhanded attempts to make money, thus inverting the giving of thanks and coming across as manipulative and greedy.
Through many faces, many hands, God provides.
That we take any time as a country to remember to give thanks is miraculous.
Thanks be to God.