As we sat down to Thanksgiving, many of us surrounded by family, friends, food and relative abundance, the traditional focus of our thoughts might have been on giving thanks. After all, not only is the name of the holiday Thanksgiving, but we also have a great deal to be thankful for.
Though there can be a lot of hardship here, it is often relative hardship compared to that in many places in the world. We have domestic peace and the hope of having a date to look forward to an end to our participation in the current active war. We have many freedoms that are still lacking in much of the world including the freedom to elect our government that should be celebrated no matter who wins. This is all in addition to the many things unique for each person and family to lift up in thanksgiving, even down to the air in the lungs with which we would utter those thanks.
Despite all this celebration of what we have, increasingly the focus on Thanksgiving is all the stuff we can buy come midnight or even before. We take time for a half a breath of thanksgiving before diving into the feeling that we don’t yet have enough. Some of this grab for bargains may be intended to go for Christmas presents, but even when that is the case, they are often for other people who also already have more than they need.
All of this consumption focused on celebrating Christmas forgets the essential nature of Christmas. In the humblest of settings, the God of the Universe comes to us in the humility of human flesh to live a humble life, offer a loving relationship, forgiveness, sacrifice and a new life. In this new life, we ask for the eyes of God to understand the value of people and things in heavenly terms.
From this perspective, I would suggest that instead of taking a moment for Thanksgiving and spending months buying, we might better spend every single day in giving thanks. When we really understand for what and whom we are most thankful, it will very rarely be things beyond the basics. As a result, we can offer gifts that are much more valuable — whether donations of basic needs for those without, or stronger, more loving and forgiving relations for all.
The Rev. Jamie Arrison is pastor of First United Methodist Church, Amesbury.