Take it

November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving.  Now there’s a holiday I can get into.  Food.  Fall.  Family and friends.  Food.  hunting season.  A week of the best leftovers you’ll have all year.  Day off.  Food.  C’mon Thursday!

Interesting thing about this holiday — it’s not nearly as theological as many on the liturgical calendar, yet it remains in many ways one of the most godly.  For some reason, it has managed to escape much of the commercial influence that has made such a mess of Christmas.  (Oh sure, a handfull of folks are making a killing on yams and farm-raised birds. But hey — that’s food, and the holiday is precisely about having enough food.  That  we’re blessed with an abundance of food doesn’t exactly spoil the mood now, does it?)  Of course, it helps that Thanksgiving doesn’t have the incriminating pseudo-history of being invented by pagans.  (Granted, pagans widely celebrate Thanksgiving, but I can’t remember ever hearing them talk about “taking it back.”)  And somehow it’s stayed pretty much below the PC radar, which is remarkable, considering that when we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are upholding a tradition of giving thanks to God because He has so graciously sustained us.  All things considered, it’s a wonder that no one’s chompin’ at the bit to call it “X-giving,” or “Wellness Acknowledgement Day,” or some other neutered, commie-femi-nonsense. 

There’s something about the giving of thanks that is just good for a man.  For Christmas and birthdays we give expensive presents.  For Easter and Halloween we give candy.  For Valentines Day we give sappy cards and more candy.  But on Thanksgiving, the only thing we’re really giving is the acknowledgement that we have taken.  That’s hard for pride to do.  It humbles us, and we need that on a lot of levels.  Giving of thanks is centering, too — it doesn’t go well with humanistic chaos.  In a way, it’s not unlike eating at the Lord’s table — in both cases we are coming hungry to a full table, and we are being filled.  We are taking what has been given, we are acknowledging both that we are taking, and that what we are taking has been given by God, and God is making us better for it.  This doesn’t lend itself well to either commercialization or pride.

But there’s another thing which, in our piety-turned-pietism, we tend to lose sight of:  God desires for His children to actually enjoy the things He has given them.  In Deuteronomy chapter 14, God tells His people to do a really unpietistic thing: He tells them to have a party before Him.  “…take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses.  And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, for sheep, for wine or strong drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.”  Now if you didn’t know any better, you’d almost think God wanted them to buy whatever they wanted, eat it before Him, and rejoice as a family.  Hmph.  What about cholesterol?  The money? The inches?  The guilt?

 We’ve grown so accustomed to guilt that I think we’ve acquired a taste for it.  A sort of love/hate relationship has developed.  We desire to be free from it, yet we don’t truly know how to live our lives without it, and so it’s like this blankie that we’re still carrying around in 5th grade.  There’s a legitimate place for guilt — it belongs right up in your face when you rebel against your creator.  It is the means by which the  proud sinner is crumbled before his perfect Saviour.  (And it shouldbe felt by people who start playing nothing but cheese-ball Christmas music on the radio as early as November 1st.)  But for the child of God, there is no guilt inherent in the giving of thanks.  (If you think there is, chances are you’re only sorry you couldn’t do it all yourself.)  There is no guilt in the creature rejoicing in his Creator.  

So knock it off and eat.  Whatever your heart desires.  Eat before the Lord your God and be filled, you and your household.  Take what has been given, and embrace the humility that comes from the giving of thanks.  Rejoice in the Lord and in His immeasurable grace, by which we’re a lot better off than the guys who started this holiday.  God is good, and He gives joy.  Take it.