Thanksgiving Sunday – 2022

Old Testament – Joel 2:21-27

New Testament – Matthew 6:25-34

 

Christmas Creep

 

INTRODUCTION: So it has happened already. Just days after Halloween ended, I noticed Christmas movies were already cropping up on the “idiot box.” 

 

The two that caught my attention in particular were Elf, that cult classic starring Will Ferrell, and the animated movie Polar Express. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I love both of those movies, especially Elf, but it did seem a little surreal to realize they were both being simultaneously shown on TV the first week of November. Can’t we at least have Thanksgiving first? 

 

Well, apparently, not. With businesses eager to get the holiday spending spree started, and the population as a whole also seemingly agreeable, (Black Friday Sales are hugely popular, after all!*?) Christmas seems to get started earlier and earlier every year now. Stores are now stocked with Christmas decorations, if not before Halloween, then immediately after. 

 

Why, the phenomenon even has a name. It’s called “Christmas Creep.” And I get it, I really do. Eager to maximize sales and to avoid dreaded supply chain issues, the shadow of Christmas is getting bigger and bigger as it reaches further back into each year. Yep, according to one article I recently read, it’s now standard policy for places like Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Target to begin putting out Christmas products on October 1st. 

 

So watch out Halloween! Because Christmas, having vanquished Thanksgiving, might be coming for you next!                

 

ONE: Of course, the issue with Christmas Creep is that in overtaking Thanksgiving, which it seems to have basically done at this point, something important is being lost. 

 

Sure, Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones and give, well, thanks. But in a larger sense, it’s also a time to sort of disengage from the hustle and bustle of life in order to just pause. 

 

Yep, Thanksgiving, it seems to me, affords us all the chance to just be. If only for a few days, Thanksgiving helps us remember there is more to life than punching time clocks and checking off all those appointments on overly-booked and highly-scheduled calendars.     

 

And so for me? Well, for me Jesus’ remarks about not worrying have always been food for pondering during Thanksgiving. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” 

 

Turns out birds, for Jesus, are profound examples of what it means to live faithfully. Believing and trusting in God’s providence, birds fly freely and gaily through the air basking in God’s good creation. Sure, they have to hunt and peck for food just like any other animal. But, says Jesus, they don’t worry.

 

Rather than be consumed with trying to plan for every contingency and account for every variable that might crop up in life, birds simply live trusting in God’s providence and care. 

 

TWO: Of course, Jesus then also lifts up the lilies of the field, as yet another model for faith.     

 

“And why do you worry about clothing?” asks Jesus. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” 

 

As far as Jesus is concerned, lilies, like birds, are yet another example of worry-free living. Rather than pine and long for the latest line of Versace clothing to hit the racks, lilies simply bask in God’s good creation.

They faithfully follow the track of the sun taking in its warmth as each day passes while also drinking water from the spring and summer rains. Like birds, the lilies of the field don’t fret and they don’t worry. They simply grow. 

 

And yet amazingly the lilies are still clothed with color that surpasses the beauty of the robes worn by kings. Not even Solomon, says Jesus, was dressed with the beauty given to the lilies of the field. 

 

And what’s more, lilies receive such beauty from God despite the fact that they bloom for only a day or two and are then gone. And if God in heaven is willing to do that for lilies, for a plant with such a short-lived blossom, how much more can we trust the same will be done for us.     

 

“Therefore,” says Jesus, “do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.”

 

THREE: Of course, let’s be honest. Even a person who is far from being a hardened cynic has to question such, admittedly, whimsical (and we might even think naive) counsel from Jesus.

 

He tells us not to worry and not to be anxious for God provides, and we have to wonder if he’s not talking about some other world in a totally different dimension. After all, as any insomniac who has spent a night flipping through the TV channels while various non-profit organizations plead for money can tell us, our world is full of hungry and dingily-clothed people. 

 

Yep, flip on the TV in the wee hours of the night or just read the morning paper on your I-Phone and it doesn’t take long to figure out that our world is a place full of growling stomachs, parched throats, and countless shivering souls huddled around steam grates trying to stay warm.  

 

But there’s a name and a reason for such grave and dark images, isn’t there? It’s called human sin pure and simple. For surely God’s good creation has been filled with enough abundance to provide for us all. And yet some clearly go without, don’t they?

 

There’s a story that a British newspaper once asked G.K. Chesterton, along with several other people, to contribute an essay responding to the question “What is wrong with the world?” When Chesterton’s essay arrived in the mail, it was reportedly short and to the point. It read as follows: “What is wrong with the world? Me.”

Well, that’s about right, it seems to me. We tend to pine over the sorry state of the world and wonder why God doesn’t do something about it, only to realize most of the problems can be traced squarely back to us.

       

FOUR: So no wonder when telling us not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear, Jesus exhorts us to also live for the kingdom of God - that kingdom where all of us are called to engage in glad acts of neighbor love; that kingdom where we seek God’s righteousness together through our common deeds of grace, generosity, and charity.

 

For as we all know, Jesus did far more than simply command us to pray for God’s coming kingdom. He also charged us to be its living precursors in the world. 

 

In his classic novel Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes proposes a rather interesting idea. While not really denying that Don Quixote is indeed mad for his wacky pursuit to live as a chivalrous knight, Cervantes believes, I think, that there is an even greater madness for which we are all to be afraid.

 

And that greater madness, which Don Quixote simply refuses to succumb to, is to see life only for what it is and not also for what it should and could be. Yep, turns out Don Quixote in his lunacy knows there is something even more insane than dueling with a windmill and waging battle with a herd of goats. 

 

And that is to conclude that the world can never be changed and that the way it exists now is the way it always will be. And that, for Don Quixote, that kind of acquiescence when it comes to the world, is where real madness is to be found.

 

And so it goes for those of us who would dare to follow Jesus Christ.  Like Don Quixote, we’re to see and live in life not for what it is, but for what it should be - a place of grace, charity, and goodwill for all God’s children.  

 

So rather than worry about what we will eat or wear, Jesus tells us to strive first for God’s kingdom - that kingdom where every single one of us is asked to practice gracious and openhanded lives.

 

Do those things, says Jesus, and matters of food and clothing, well, they will just naturally and surely take care of themselves for God has given to us all more than enough.

 

There’s a story about a Sunday school teacher doing a lesson on Thanksgiving. Wanting to have fun with the kids, she started explaining the meaning of Thanksgiving by saying: “Let’s see, Thanksgiving. That’s the day when we think about the stuff we have and how we want more than anyone else has and how we don’t care about anyone but ourselves and.... ”

 

“No!” the kids started to yell. “N-o-o!”

 

Then one little guy announced, “That’s not Thanksgiving, Miss Michelle. That’s Christmas!”

CONCLUSION: Well, as someone who actually does love Christmas, let me state categorically that I don’t think such pessimism about Christmas is warranted. 

 

For Christmas, even today, still has the power to infect our world with joy, peace and goodwill, if only fleetingly. But “for everything there is a season and a time,” right? So what ya say we tell Christmas to bug off for just a few more days. 

 

For now is the season for giving thanks. Now is the season to pause and to, yes, even drop out of the rat-race, if only briefly. So don’t worry about your life, at least for a few days, and don’t worry about what you will drink, or what you will wear. 

 

Instead, just live for God’s kingdom and all those things shall surely follow.           

 

Now to the Ruler of all worlds, undying, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.