I really value integrity. I try to be truthful about who I am and what I say, and it troubles me when I’m inconsistent; two-faced.
We’re all human, and subject to conflicting priorities, desires and motives. As a result, sometimes one’s actions can contradict one’s core values. That’s being a hypocrite.
Welcome to the club.
(The story goes of a pastor knocking doors to talk to people in his neighborhood about church. One man answered the knock, and following a brief conversation said, “I don’t trust you church-going people. You’re all hypocrites.” To which the pastor replied, “No argument there, and we have room for another one.”)
It’s always bothered me that Thanksgiving is obscured by the big commercial holidays of Halloween and Christmas. I was in Kroger on November 2, two days following All Hallows Eve.
In the proliferation of juvenile tooth decay with the practice of Trick or Treating (seems to me the kids are tricked, and the dentists treated), their inventory of leftover treats was huge. Mass carbohydrates infused into chocolates, and multitudinous other sugar-laden, chemically-preserved, diabetes-inducing candies, filled the lobby on sale at 50 percent off. What a bargain.
Three Kroger employees were busily filling the now empty shelves where the treats had been displayed, with boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff (it seemed oddly like another upcoming holiday, the one that is out with the old and in with the new).
Other than the edible merchandise marketed for feasting, nothing related to Thanksgiving could be found. (I suppose you could re-purpose a marked-down, ceramic jack-o-lantern by turning it around backwards to display on a shelf, next to a gourd perhaps, or an elf.)
It seems that Thanksgiving is just not a very marketable holiday. Aside from grocers, turkey farmers, tater vendors and candied cranberry sauce confectioners, most merchants don’t get a sales spike from the fourth Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving really could be named “Black Friday Eve”. At many family gatherings, after dinner, during the Cowboys’ football game, the shoppers sequester away from the TV to mastermind a strategy to maximize the efficiency of navigating the Black Friday maze.
Can’t you just hear the grateful cheer when somebody announces that this year, “Black Friday starts on Thursday!”? Could it get any better?
Now that’s something to be thankful for.
I’ve written before about how much I enjoy decorating evergreens in my yard for Christmas. I’m extravagant, not with the LED’s that blink, strobe and flash in tune with carols being blasted on outdoor speakers, but with many hundreds of colored lights on large, mature trees. DP&L loves me during the holidays.
My annual goal is to have all the lights strung, extension cords secured, and timers programmed for the grand illumination on Thanksgiving night, but never before then. For Christmas to jump in line ahead of Thanksgiving Day has been, well, sacrilegious to me. Until this year.
Last year Thanksgiving was on November 22, providing 33 days afterwards until Christmas. This year, it is on November 28, allowing a measly 27 days between the holidays — the shortest possible gap, and six fewer shopping days than last year.
So, with the shorter season and the same amount of work needed to get the lights ready, well, they just might get lit earlier than in previous years. Hypocrite.
I was praying about breaking free from my Thanksgiving-always-comes-before-Christmas conviction. While I was deliberating, it struck me that the attitude of gratitude isn’t really linked to when we commence the Christmas season.
Not at all. In fact, I began to wonder if acknowledging Christmas may be the very best way of expressing thanks.
Let me explain.
In our display of decorated trees in the yard, right in the center, in the foreground, we mount an eight-foot cedar cross, covered in pine garland, with white mini-LED’s on the beams, and red ones where the wrists and feet of Jesus would have been. The white represents Jesus’ purity, and red is for the blood shed on our behalf.
My hope has been that the colorfully lit trees will draw the attention of those driving by, and their gaze will be drawn to the cross.
You see CHRISTmas is truly about the advent of Jesus, His sinless life, and ultimately His death suffered to satisfy the penalty required by our unrighteousness. The cross isn’t just a symbol for Easter, but of Christmas too, as well as a purpose to rejoice the other 363 days.
You see, God came to us as the infant Jesus (John 1:14), so as a human (Philippians 2:7) He could experience the full depravity of our sin and shame (1 Peter 2:24). Though absolutely perfect, without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19), Jesus literally took our sinfulness upon Himself, and in dying a merciless death on the cross with our sins laid upon Him (2 Corinthians 5:21), He provided the means for our forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Jesus was executed in our place to satisfy the death penalty that was ours to bear (Colossians 2:13,14).
(What an absolutely incredible gift God gave us.)
All this to say: at the heart of my thanksgiving is Jesus. He is my purpose for living, the fulfillment I long for, and the contentment I’m blessed with.
Our journey with Jesus is trekked on a long, narrow path, with obstacles and pitfalls along the way, and we must contend courageously to complete the course. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
I guess plugging in the Christmas lights early may be my way of saying “thank you”.
Instead of sweeping Thanksgiving to the side with an early illumination, I’m highlighting the reason for my gratitude: Jesus.
Psalm 100 says it like this:
“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Next week, let’s springboard from Thanksgiving on to Christmas, OK?
Dave Hinman is Pastoral Elder at Dove Church Wilmington. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.