When someone says something about “The War on Christmas,” it cracks me up for a variety of reasons. Particularly because there really isn’t one. But mostly because whatever we imagine that to be, it’s nothing compared to the “war” on Thanksgiving. Which is actually more of an “Ignore” on Thanksgiving.
You remember Thanksgiving, don’t you? That American and Canadian holiday that is slowly disappearing as a unique holiday?
Maybe you know it best as “Turkey Day,” whatever that means. If it really is “Turkey Day,” I suppose in some ways, it might as well be Groundhog Day. Except we don’t eat the Groundhog. (But if the turkey sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of Christmas…)
Yes, I’m talking about Thanksgiving, that poor little holiday that has sort of become an optional, “special feature” of Christmas. In and of itself, it is not flashy, sparkly, or commercially driven, which probably explains why it has also become more of a “Black Friday Eve,” than anything else. And “Black Friday,” a name once associated with the Stock Market Crash of 1869, has now become the “holiday” that ushers in the “middle” of the Christmas season.
But most snarkiness aside, I’m beginning to think that there really is no longer room or place in American culture, today, for a holiday like Thanksgiving.
Think about it. A time for family, gathered around a table to thank God for the blessings of the year? Not exactly common, these days. Sadly, this is a Norman Rockwell scene that is fast becoming a faded relic of the past in our world.
And that’s really a shame, because it’s the holiday that we need now more than ever.
Do we get presents? No.
Is there a Tree? No.
Are there sparkly decorations? No.
But there’s an even more revealing question:
Can we celebrate it without acknowledging God? No.
“…Happy Turkey, Gluttony, Football and Christmas Shopping Day, everybody!”
Oh. Well, yeah, I guess you can, now.
But not if you’re giving it any attention, because even the name and origin of the holiday points to something bigger.
Most major American holidays have some kind of origin or roots in pagan rituals or holidays:
Christmas – Winter Solstice and Yuletide.
Halloween – Samhain and Lord knows what.
Easter – Fertility festivals and the beginning of spring.
The church has rightfully redeemed these times with more meaningful reasons to celebrate, but the parallels are still there. You can celebrate most holidays these days without acknowledging God on any level.
Not so with Thanksgiving.
In the United States, it was originally for the giving of thanks for the bounty of the year’s harvest and God’s blessing, and in Canada, it was for the giving of thanks for the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.
But no matter how you slice the turkey, it’s still about giving thanks.
But the idea of “giving thanks” begs the question: “Giving Thanks to Who?” or rather, “To Whom?” (Although “to Whom?” sure sounds “stuffy.” No need to “dress it up,” though.)
Thanks to each other? Sort of, I guess.
Thanks to the Earth? Hmm, “Thanks, Earth.” Kind of misses something. Besides, Earth has it’s own day, now.
Thanks to nothing? If so, I guess we could just call it, “Happy Lucky For Us Day” (With apologies to St. Patrick).
It’s kind of hard to avoid God in Thanksgiving, if you truly celebrate it. But that’s one of the things that makes it so special.
But there’s also something else on display here: our collective loss of patience and self control, as Thanksgiving falls by the wayside. The ability to wait for something. To pace ourselves.
By 8:15 p.m. on Halloween night this year, I drove past a house that had already put up its Christmas Decorations. Wow, in a hurry, much?
I think Christmas is a glorious holiday, but too much of a good thing is like too much dessert. Obviously, Christmas is not a dessert. I just mean that it has a “specialness” all it’s own that doesn’t need to be shared with a different holiday. …And it’s worth waiting for.
What if I told you that our church was going to be celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day at Easter this year, because they’re all part of the “Spring Holidays?” That would be goofy, because there is something distinctive about those observances that deserves individual attention.
Consider the satisfying sequence of the American Fall Holidays, if they occurred in a more perfect world:
Halloween – Fall is in full swing, the stresses, frustrations, and fears that have built up over the summer are released with outlandish costumes, parties and “boo’s!” We laugh in the face of evil, death and the things that scare us.
Thanksgiving – As the year is approaching its end and the fall harvest time has arrived, we enjoy a time of reflection. We acknowledge God’s blessings from the whole year and enjoy food and laughter with family. We take and release a deep breath of gratitude to our Maker and Provider.
Christmas – Winter is on it’s way; wonder is in the air. Candles, lights, songs, ornaments, decorations, trees, presents and joy receive full focus, now, celebrating the birth of the Savior of the World.
New Year’s Eve & Day – We celebrate life with friends, reflect on lessons learned, set new goals, and dedicate a new year to God.
Now consider the way things are today:
Halloween – The nightmare before Christmas and the weird beginning of the Christmas Season.
Thanksgiving Dinner/Black Friday – Nice supper and shopping in in the middle of more Christmas shopping.
Christmas – Starts at Halloween and is really the only holiday we’re talking about here. Tinsle, trees and lights for two and a half months.
The pace is off. The hurry is on. And the ability to savor and enjoy each celebration has gotten a little muddy.
I don’t know. These are just holidays we’re talking about here, not the Bible or doctrine, but I think we’re beginning to lose something special as Thanksgiving begins to fade. Something important. Something we need.
But I’m really not a Scrooge. If you have your Christmas Tree up before Thanksgiving, I’m not mad at you or judging you. If you break out the Christmas cups before you’ve eaten the Thanksgiving Turkey, it’s not the end of the world. Heck, I listen to Christmas music at various times during the year, myself.
I’m just encouraging you to focus on Thanksgiving as Thanksgiving. A holiday with it’s own focus and meaning. A holiday of Thanksgiving to God for His blessings in our life. (Psalm 106:1)
I love Christmas.
But I love Christmas more, when it actually follows Thanksgiving.
Until then, Happy “HalloThanksMas,” every one. Happy HalloThanksMas.
Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to Matthew, Melissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church. He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.