Thanksgiving Eve “ November 23, 2016
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
I don’t usually title sermons but this one is called Top Ten Reasons I Like Thanksgiving Better Than Christmas.
Number 10: No presents. I like to get presents and give presents as much as anyone but they’re kind of complicated. When I’m giving gifts there’s a lot to worry about. Will they enjoy the gift? Is it as good as the gift they got me? Is it so expensive as to make the other feel uncomfortable? Is it so inexpensive that they’ll think I don’t care about them? Is it original enough to show how valuable the relationship is to me? Receiving gifts is pretty complicated too. Is my reaction pleasing to them? Am I so hopeful about receiving something else that I don’t appreciate what I actually got? Have I made it a practice to just buy everything I want whenever I want it and not given anyone else the chance to give me gifts? Am I willing to receive a gift from someone else without having to give them something in return or do I approach presents just as keeping up with the Joneses?
Number 9: No tree. Christmas trees are fun, kind of, for a while. But there are the lights to deal with. You have to unwind them and they’re always in a knot and one strand never works. All the ornaments are in all those boxes and it’s such a mess. Do we do tinsel this year or skip it? Fake trees are getting better but I like real ones and then there’s all the shedding needles to deal with. When do you decorate the tree and when do you take it down?
Number 8: No thank-you notes. Maybe you’re like me and feel some pressure to write thank you notes for certain things you get on Christmas. And maybe, like me, you kind of resent it when you don’t get a thank-you note. Well this year I’m not getting them anything; they never said a word about what I got them last year.
Number 7: You always know what day of the week Thanksgiving is. It’s on Thursday. Christmas just flies all over the place and it’s so inconvenient. This year it’s on Sunday. That kind of messes up everything. We have to alter our regular schedule here at church. Next year it’s worse. Christmas is on Monday. That means Christmas Eve is on Sunday so we have regular church in the morning and then Christmas Eve that night. It’s tough on the flower guild. Thanksgiving is predictable. Think about how much better Christmas would be if it were on Thursday every year.
Number 6: It’s calmer. There aren’t a lot of Thanksgiving parties to go to. And there aren’t too many church services. I like church a lot but Christmas is kind of hectic. In order to offer something for everyone we have to do lots of church services. I don’t get much sleep on Christmas Eve and have to time it just right so I put the turkey on the smoker before I go back to church on Christmas morning and then take it off when I get back home. For Thanksgiving we go to church once and then you’ve got a few days where things are pretty peaceful.
Number 5: Thanksgiving isn’t as commercialized. With no presents goes less commotion. I guess some people decorate their houses elaborately for Thanksgiving but most of us just get out the china and polish the silver and that’s enough. There’s no pressure to go to a bunch of stores and listen to Thanksgiving music for two months. Low key is nice.
Number 4: Football. Lots of football. And even if you don’t like football, it’s nice to have it in the background. It’s mostly college football and most of the rivalry games are played around Thanksgiving. The people watching are kind of required to choose a team to support. You might win or you might lose but, either way, you learn there’s something more important than winning or losing. Being together is bigger.
Number 3: It’s compact and doesn’t take forever. It might be just one day. For most it’s several days but it has a clear beginning and a clear end. Christmas seems to start earlier every year and everybody’s tired of it before it even gets here.
Number 2: Turkey sandwiches. Yeah, we have those on Christmas too but it’s not the same. On Thanksgiving you have the turkey and then, that night and for every meal until it runs out, you eat turkey sandwiches. This year we’ve got a 20 pound turkey for 6 people. If you need a sandwich on Friday or Saturday, come on over.
And the number 1 reason I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas: It’s all about the meal. You talk about it for a couple of weeks before and after. There are certain things you have every year and then each year you throw in something a little different. It’s not the meal and the presents and the tree and the expectations. It’s just about the meal. You spread the table. You lay out the meal. You spend time over it. You relish it and enjoy it and you have a little more than you’re comfortable having because it’s a feast and you’re supposed to. It’s all about the meal.
I think, for me, it all boils down to this. Thanksgiving is like Eucharist. It’s a celebration of all the graces in life. We come together and put our differences and distances aside. We unite, give thanks, and feast with each other. And we know that everybody else, in all kinds of different places, is doing the same thing. We might not all be gathered in one house but we know everybody is gathering somewhere and that connects us in a real way. Thanksgiving is Eucharistic. It’s coming together and sharing a meal gratefully. We collect ourselves individually. We gather and converse with each other. We are aware of our shortcomings and those of others but we put those aside. We process to the table. We serve each other out of the abundance that has been provided. We know we are blessed. And we go out refreshed and renewed, humbled and empowered to be more generous in our lives and to be kinder and more respectful. Thanksgiving is Eucharistic. It’s celebratory. It’s holy. We know God has provided for us abundantly and we hold life a little lighter, a little dearer.
On the night before he died, Jesus gave the community of faith a gift, a promise, a meal. This is my body. Take and eat. Whenever you do this, I will be present. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. As Christians we are invited to receive the Eucharist. As Christians we are invited to become part of the Eucharist, feasting on God’s graces, gathering all parts of ourselves and all sorts of others, receiving food for our journey and taking that food into all the world. Receive the Eucharist. Be part of the Eucharist. It’s the gift our Lord and Savior gave to us.