Summary: Thanksgiving, while perhaps something we most need to do, turns out to be the most difficult thing we do. A brief examination shows us why.
Thanksgiving: It’s not easy
Thanksgiving: we have celebratory day for it every year. It’s a very American holiday, and it is deeply ingrained in our culture. We devote a day just to thanksgiving - at least that is what we claim. That doesn’t sound so tough. In fact, you wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult. But it turns out to be harder than you might first think.
I. Thanksgiving is a tough assignment for us.
Think about what the origin of the word “holiday.” It is a day that is, for some reason or other, “holy.” We live in a society that increasingly would like to forget that anything can be “holy.” Besides the demands that holy things can make on us, there are other reasons why “holy” days are a little discomforting to our world.
The existence of the “holy” implies the existence of God. When you start talking about God, try as you might NOT to identify this God, it becomes very hard to avoid that question at some point.
You run into the especially at universities, such as the one where I minister. For years our university invited a campus minister to lead an invocation at each meeting of the Board of Regents. I used to take my turn, until one day I got a call from the President’s assistant. They wanted me to come to the next Regents meeting and lead a prayer, but they wanted me to “tone it down” a bit.
I wondered out loud what “tone it down” might mean. The person on the other end was very reluctant to say, but finally I got her to tell me that what they wanted was for me NOT to pray “in the name of Jesus.” Why couldn’t I just pray a “generic” prayer, she asked.
Well, a “holy” day brings up this very question, a question asked and answered very often in the Old Testament: just who is God? Is everything God? Are human beings their own god? Are there lots of gods, one for one locality and a different one for another locality? Is Allah God? And what about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Holidays bring up these very sticky questions that a lot of modern people would just rather avoid.
Still, people love “holidays” because we get to change our routines and can, if we allow ourselves, have a little rest from the normal “grind.”
So we run into a very interesting, and somewhat depressing, modern phenomenon. We want our holidays, but we wish they were just “days” and not “holy.”
I have noticed how this has been handled lately. Christmas has become just “the season” for which we send “season’s greetings.” It’s a pretty slick trick if you think about it. You don’t have to bother about that worrisome, politically incorrect “Christ” part of Christmas.
Thanksgiving has faired no better. It has become “turkey day.” This doesn’t do much to promote the happiness of the “animal rights” activists because it’s not a day when we honor or worship turkeys - not around here, at least - but a day when we EAT turkeys, and perhaps other assorted foul!
But this nifty little arrangement takes the “thanks” out of Thanksgiving.