Friday, 19 September 2014
Preparing for the Feast of Giving Thanks
“Have a happy holiday!” chirped the sweet young thing as she finished boxing my sweet potatoes.
Happy holiday? I looked at her, puzzled, thinking she meant Christmas. “Happy Thanksgiving,” added the checker.
“Oh, yes, Happy Thanksgiving to you both!” I chimed in, mentally noting: “the holidays” now includes Thanksgiving.
On second thought–the holidays begin with the Feast of Giving Thanks.
This blog has two themes, hunger and the feast. Most of the time the hunger theme dominates our lives because our felt needs are our loudest inner voice. That voice won’t stay inside our heads either, but comes out in words and actions powered by the force of appetite. We end up speaking out of hunger, acting out of hunger, characterizing ourselves by our hunger. After all, we are what we lack.
However hunger isn’t the whole story. Christians worship a God who feeds the hungry. Our hunger is more than matched by his plenty. Plenty characterizes him the way hunger characterizes us, which is why we shouldn’t be surprised that Scripture also tells us he is the God who commands feasts. He is so bountiful he has plenty to share. He is so generous he invites the hungry to join the noisy party–where those who say yes to his invitation turn out to be the guests of honor.
“‘And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:23-24.
So let’s get ready to eat and celebrate. I find I’m pretty good at prepping the meal, but I’m not great at giving thanks. To do that means I have to stop, remember, and tell.
Let’s talk about why those three actions are hard for us and how they help us get ready to give thanks.
To give thanks we have to stop.
You’d think that was the easy part, but it’s not.
Are you used to being busy? I am. There’s so much to do, of course. But it’s also a habit, a knee-jerk-American-way-of-life kind of habit. Even when I don’t have a long list, I make up stuff to do, because busy feels, well, normal. If I’m not busy I feel like something’s wrong. Like many of us, I’m addicted to productivity.
God knows our bondage to busyness. Much like Israel in Egypt, we have taskmasters who won’t let us rest. Unlike Israel in Egypt, ours are internal ones. Yet, just like Israel, God hears our cry and sends the blood of His Lamb to cover our sinful submission to this false god. He delivers us from slavery into freedom. And just like Israel, he calls us to true freedom, not to a “now I can do anything I want to” kind of freedom.
God calls us from slavery to worship. Stopping to give thanks is a way of entering into the freedom he has provided us in Christ.
It’s actually the beginning of the feast.
To give thanks we have to remember.
There’s a kind of forgetfulness that can’t be blamed on old age. Nope. Ingratitude is the culprit. When I’m in pain, I can’t think of anything else except my need. I seek help, talk to anyone who’ll listen, and make myself a nuisance if necessary.
But once my need is met, I move on. I forget to give thanks because I forget I even had the need in the first place. I’m like the 9 lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy, but forgot to return and thank him. No longer driven by need, they moved on.
That’s why God so often calls us to remember. Remembering the past year stirs our thanks by reminding us of the now-forgotten struggles we faced. Remembering reminds us how he rescued us, again and again.
It’s the main course of the feast.
To give thanks we have to tell.
It can feel hard to talk about what we’re thankful for. It seems too obvious. Or too personal. Or just irrelevant to whatever the current conversation happens to be. It’s feels like having to say, “I love you” to your spouse. By this time they should know. Why do I have to say it out loud?
But it is in the telling that the thanks is given. It is the telling that completes the thanking. And it is the telling that stirs the ember of gratitude into full flame. Once we start, it becomes hard to stop.
Telling is the sweet dessert of the feast.
So let’s prepare for the Feast of Giving Thanks. Then “let us eat and celebrate”!