Tomorrow, millions of people will gather across this great nation to celebrate Thanksgiving: the time in our calendar where we pause to give thanks for the year that has past, for family, loved ones, new additions and to remember those that have gone on before us. We share stories, we laugh, we cry — and for many of us we eat too much. For centuries, families have gathered together to pause and to say thanks, even if it is just for one day.
This year, however, I am going to make a bold statement: I am declaring that Thanksgiving to some is obsolete, if not dead. Why such the bold statement? It seems that since the day after Halloween, the focus has been on lights, bows, trees, candy canes, Santa and the Christmas story. In a mad dash to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and in the midst of people complaining about the store employees' not saying “Merry Christmas,” we have forgotten to stop and be thankful.
We all learned the story in grade school. Pilgrims came to this land on a ship called the Mayflower. They settled the land and after a difficult time with the land and the weather, they met some Native Americans. They helped work the land, grow crops and around harvest time they celebrated together with a grand feast, the first Thanksgiving. It was in this same spirit that the tradition has continued for so long.
For some, Thanksgiving has turned into a stopping point on the road to Christmas shopping and excess. It seems that every year the start date for when “Black Friday” sales begin is getting earlier and earlier. Some stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day to entice people to come buy their holiday gifts at low, low prices.
On one hand, I understand their reasoning of trying to bolster the bottom line — especially in light of the past few years’ decline in the economy. But why has the day when people are supposed to be thankful for what they have been given turned into just another Thursday? Can we not give thanks for more than just a few hours one Thursday in November before making a mad dash to buy more and more things? What about the employees of these stores? Not every employee of a company can demand that a day off. What about the employees’ traditions? What about their family time? How will they give thanks?
While this might sound like I am being cynical, please hear me out: I am not. Thanksgiving is more than about turkey, stuffing and family; it is about the recognition that for most people, by virtue of living in the United States, we live a life of luxury, comfort and even excess. We should be thankful for what we have — not thankful that we have things, but pine away for that flat-screen TV for $100 at Walmart.
I am not anti-gift giving, or even anti-capitalism, but I am anti-acquisition of things for acquisition’s sake. Is forgoing the sales on Thanksgiving really going to put a damper on one’s holiday shopping? It’s puzzling to think that in one breath we can go around the table and say one thing we are thankful for, while in the back of our mind we are hoping that Aunt Shirley won’t take too long because we have to get to the store by 6 p.m. if we are going to purchase one of those TVs or a PlayStation 4 or an iPad Mini.
As a Christian, I find the words of Jesus are all the more true this time of year: “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Our heart this time of year should be centered around thanks for the beauty of this earth, the world that we find ourselves in and even extending Christ’s love of wholeness and reconciliation to those who go without most of the year.
Thanksgiving should be a reminder to us all that despite the material things we envy, we have a lot, more than most in the entire world. This Thanksgiving let’s not lose sight of that fact. Things can wait, sales come and go. What’s more important — saving a few bucks or making memories with friends and family? Give me the memories all day long — you can keep your sales, long lines and fights over the last Barbie Dream House.
Rev. Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and author of evandolive.com. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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