“Official reports now confirm, Christ-mas has indeed been hijacked! The surprising suspects include the beloved Santa Claus and his band of merry elves, the notorious Disney crew, and the Peanuts gang. And in other news, after attempts by several members of the retail mob family to kidnap Thanksgiving, it has been taken into protective custody at a secure location, until the suspects can be apprehended and returned to Greed Penitentiary.”
I had to earn my United States citizenship, and studying American history was still part of the naturalization process; so as a result, I fell in love with Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving Day, and American football…which technically was not in the history book, but was one tradition I readily embraced, along with pumpkin pie and marshmallows, …which I cannot explain.
It seemed to me that Thanksgiving was one of the few things the British refugees and American Indians got absolutely right, whatever happened down the road. And if they went around the table saying what they were thankful for, it probably would be some of the same things we hear around our tables; family, friends, provision, and so on. Then, as now, the true significance is in the choice to put everyday life on pause; to have an attitude of gratitude, despite the struggles and strife of the past, the perils of the present, or concerns about the future.
So, seriously?! Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday? There are already at least three hundred and sixty-four other days in the year to shop! It is time for the proverbial frog to jump out of the boiling water; to draw a line in the sand; to take a stand for truth, justice and the tattered shreds of the fabric that remains of the American family way, before we are destroyed by our insatiable appetites for more of…anything and everything.
And even with all those shopping days, I have searched three Christmases now for a lighted Nativity scene display for my front yard, among the plethora of Santas, Mickey Mouses,…or Mice, Charlie Browns and Snoopys, all to no avail. Yes, I may have scared the salesperson at the large department store just a little when my frustration erupted into:
“Whose freakin’ birthday is it supposed to be?!”
I know …I must behave better; exercise more self-control.
Thanksgiving is my yearly opportunity to appreciate the people, and experiences that are part life on planet earth, with all its joy and sorrow, and to turn to God with a heart full of thanks that He keeps on giving. It is the perfect set-up for my most favorite holiday of all, Christmas.
Every year as Christmas approaches, I am overwhelmed by God’s greatest gift of all; packed up in Jesus’ human body, wrapped in strips of cloth for a bow, and laid in an animal trough instead of under a gorgeously decorated and lit Christmas tree. Over and over I play Handel’s entire ‘Messiah’, while I decorate, wrap presents and bake traditional Jamaican Christmas cake, made with fruit soaked for months in so much rum and port wine, the house smells like a bar.
It was Johnson Oatman Jr. who wrote the words of one my favorite hymns describing something that will forever be a mystery, even to angels, and I hope will explain why Thanks-Christmas means so much to me.
There is singing up in Heaven such as we have never known,
Where the angels sing the praises of the Lamb upon the throne,
Their sweet harps are ever tuneful, and their voices always clear,
O that we might be more like them while we serve the Master here!
Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.
But I hear another anthem, blending voices clear and strong,
Unto Him who hath redeemed us and hath bought us, is the song;
We have come through tribulation to this land so fair and bright,
In the fountain freely flowing He hath made our garments white.
Then the angels stand and listen, for they cannot join the song,
Like the sound of many waters, by that happy, blood washed throng,
For they sing about great trials, battles fought and vict’ries won,
And they praise their great Redeemer, who hath said to them, Well done.
So, although I’m not an angel, yet I know that over there
I will join a blessèd chorus that the angels cannot share;
I will sing about my Savior, who upon dark Calvary
Freely pardoned my transgressions, died to set a sinner free.
For me, Thanksgiving is short-sighted, Christmas pointless, and the entire human experience without meaning or purpose if Jesus is removed from any or all of it.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He Himself is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:125-20
So here’s the thing, I absolutely refuse, on principle, to go shopping on Thanksgiving Day; and for Christmas I adamantly refuse to decorate my yard with Santa, Disney, or Peanuts characters in place of Jesus Christ! On these issues I conscientiously choose to be intolerant and narrow-minded and humbly beg forgiveness if I cause offense. But this is the point at which I feel compelled to say, “Enough!”, if I am to keep on…just living the thing.