Rector's Ramblings November 25, 2020
Years ago, the New York Times ran an editorial just before Thanksgiving entitled, “Thursday Vanishes.” It noted how Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, never a weekend, which makes it a disruptive and inconvenient holiday. It takes up the whole week, regardless of whatever else we had intended for this week. Yet even with its disruptive nature, Thanksgiving is special. For all that it takes to load up and head to Thanksgiving dinner, wherever that may be, something happens when we gather for the meal. Once all are there and we sit at table, it is sacred – Thursday disappears, and Thanksgiving takes over. That matches with my experience as well.
So, what happens during a pandemic, when we don’t gather around the table for a meal, or at least not with the sort of gatherings we’re used to? Is Thanksgiving still “worth it?” The real inconvenience is the fact that we have to try to have this holiday at a time we’re literally being advised not to travel and not to gather. We want, we may even yearn for Thanksgiving to be transcendent. Come Friday, will it have been?
We have many things to give thanks for when we stop and think about it, even during a pandemic. We can be thankful for a crazy family, especially that we don’t have to see some of them this year (come on, you were thinking it!). Maybe we’re thankful that many of us will enjoy a feast without the huge pile of dishes to clean afterward. Seriously though, we can be thankful for homes to live in, vocations and careers that have provided for our families, and the health we do enjoy.
The online comic series, “Coffee with Jesus”, has a Thanksgiving edition. In the comics, Jesus always has a brief conversation with one of a few recurring characters. In this particular one, Lisa says to Jesus, “Sometimes when I get to the thanks part of my prayers I just start reciting stuff I know I should be thankful for, Jesus.” Jesus replies, “Perhaps you’re taking those things for granted, Lisa.” “How do I not do that?” she asks. “Imagine losing them.”
I do think we take things for granted. Stopping to imagine life without all the things we take for granted can help us be thankful. It’s not hard to imagine losing things, especially now, when it seems like we’ve lost so much, and yet we still might struggle to easily find ourselves lifting prayers of thanksgiving to God. Giving thanks isn’t supposed to be disruptive, it’s supposed to be natural. Although we may focus on what we don’t have, God is showering us with blessings we might be looking right past.
I’ve spoken to several people in the last couple days who were able to share their lament that this year’s celebration just won’t be the same. I share their sadness. In spite of that grief, I am thinking and praying carefully so that I do not lose track of how many gifts I receive each day, from God and others. I can’t see my extended family in my own dining room, but I am very thankful for technology that makes it so easy to see their faces and hear their voices anyway. Our table will not be full, but the people who matter to me the most are here and healthy. I think you can probably pick up the theme from here.
I hope and pray that your Thursday vanishes tomorrow, and in its place, you find yourself full to overflowing with gratitude and thanksgiving for all that God is doing in your life. It’s an inconvenient holiday (of sorts) in an inconvenient time, which can actually help drive the theme home all the more. God is good, even, and especially now.
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Photo Credits: Happy Thanksgiving, free via needpix.com; Coffee With Jesus via radiofreebabylon.com, who produces the Coffee with Jesus cartoon.