I used to think Abraham Lincoln was a smart guy until I realized it was his idea to put Thanksgiving between Halloween and Christmas. I mean, c’mon. This poor holiday never stood a chance. Abe, what were you thinking?
All it takes is a mid-October stroll through Wal-Mart to see what I’m talking about. By this time the store is plastered with acres of Halloween costumes and creepy decorations. And what’s that I see in the back? Oh yeah, Christmas trees! Where are all the turkeys? Where are all the pilgrims? I’ll tell you where they are, crammed into a two-foot wide end cap between plastic pumpkins and Bing Crosby CDs.
Seriously, you have one holiday that’s all about getting candy, and one holiday that’s all about getting gifts. How could turkey and football possibly compete with that? Sure we have pie, but you can’t build a holiday on pie alone. Where are the colorful Thanksgiving mascots, like Santa and the Easter Bunny? Where are the cartoons? Where are the movies? Where are the lawn decorations? Where are the parades?
Okay, so there is a parade. I’ll give you that, but it’s not like it’s a Thanksgiving-themed parade. You’ll see one actual Thanksgiving float that gets lost in a sea of marching bands and character balloons. That is, of course, until Santa rides in and steals the show.
Don’t even get me started on the songs. I mean “Over the River and Through the Woods”? What kind of a holiday theme is that? How could it even hope to stand up to Jingle Bells and the Monster Mash?
Let’s be honest. Thanksgiving gets a raw deal.
But maybe that’s for the best. Maybe the reason it’s so hard to commercialize and mythologize is because it’s clearly about one simple thing. Giving thanks. You can’t miss it. It’s right there in the name.
Perhaps Honest Abe had more going on in his stove-pipe hat than I’m giving him credit for. Maybe he knew that by making it so simple, we couldn’t mess it up.
Throughout the Bible you’ll see that God did the same thing. He commanded His people to celebrate all kinds of holidays with the sole purpose of remembering what He had done. See, God knew what Abe probably realized too. When we forget what God has done in our past, we forget to rely on Him for our future. We forget to have courage. We forget to have hope. We forget that nothing is impossible with Him.
But when we give thanks, well, that’s a totally different story. When we give thanks, we remember all the times He’s pulled our fat out of the fire. When we give thanks, we remember all the times He’s saved us from our own dumb mistakes. When we give thanks, we remember that God delights in surprising his children with good things. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, the Bible says, from our heavenly Father whose character does not change.
So this year, when we’re sitting around the living room with our bellies stuffed with turkey, making our Christmas lists for a Friday shopping spree, let’s all make a deal to just stop for a minute and make another list first. A list of all the times God’s come through. A list of all the good gifts we enjoy every day. A thankgsgiving list. I believe that would be enough to make Abe proud.