by Jared Johnson
“I mean, what’s with the Christmas cups; it’s barely Halloween?”
I wouldn’t say it any differently myself. I teach Bible at a faith-based high school nearby during 1st hour and on Monday after Halloween a couple weeks ago, one of the students was commenting on his coffee cup, decorated with wintry/Christmas-y motifs. It seems to be our cultural default anymore to “skip” directly from the fright, decay and blackness of Halloween straight to a “gimme stuff” mode around Christmas – at least, culturally.
In between, of course, we’ll probably do something to deliberately celebrate Thanksgiving. AAA has been projecting 50+ million Americans travel around the Thanksgiving holiday in each of the past few years; it’s not as if we ignore Thanksgiving completely, but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to surmise that we mentally jump ahead to Christmas and give little thought to Thanksgiving, besides how we’re going to tolerate an obligatory visit to the relatives.
I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving. In our family, we have deliberately celebrated with my mom’s family for the vast majority of the past 30 or so years. I consider myself fortunate and blessed that we, a family comprised 50% of preachers, would often meet in a church’s fellowship hall space and utilize their kitchen. And if it wasn’t a preacher hosting that year, we would meet at my grandparents’ house, and they were always deficient – at least in the world’s eyes – in the TV department, so watching the Macy’s parade or a football game just never became part of our pattern. Even now, the 4th generation – my kids – automatically associate Thanksgiving with travel, games, good food, laughter, cousins and second cousins.
I’m glad I live in a place with a long history of giving thanks on a holiday, both culturally and through official laws of the land. When we see a “Festival of Shelters” or “Festival of Booths” in Scripture, it’s functionally what we think of as Thanksgiving – a society-wide celebration of God’s blessing in light of harvest at the end of a growing season. Like our Thanksgiving, the ancient Hebrews didn’t completely ignore it, but it isn’t exactly preeminent in the biblical story either. It was established in Leviticus 23, revisited in Numbers 29 and Deuteronomy 16 and 31, and we see it celebrated during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 8, 2 Chronicles 5, 7, 8), along with a deliberate corruption of it under Israel’s first king Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). We next see it overtly celebrated only after the exile period, under Ezra/Nehemiah, in the mid-400s BC (Ezra 3 and Nehemiah 8).
Giving thanks, as a culture-wide celebration in some fashion, has a very long history.
“Thank” and its various forms is used, depending on your translation of choice, about 150 times throughout the Bible.
At e2, we give thanks often – daily – for leaders of God’s Church. Thank you, elders, for faithfully shepherding God’s people that He has entrusted to your care. Thank you, staff, for equipping the saints who gather every week to worship the One to whom we all give our collective thanks.