The other day, I heard someone say that Thanksgiving didn’t seem particularly important – it was a bump in the road from Halloween to Christmas. Judging by store displays, grocery stores being the exception, he’s got a point. Halloween decorations and Christmas ornaments leave little room for anything else. Sure, there are a few pilgrim hats or ceramic turkeys tucked away on shelves, perhaps a spare dreidel, but it’s much more difficult to commercialize a holiday dedicated to giving thanks than ones involving costumes and candy, blinking lights and wrapping paper. Is it really just a commute from handing out Halloween candy to eating the Life Savers and chocolate coins that fill our stockings? Is Thanksgiving just the bump in the road that rattles the car and cannot be avoided?
I think there’s a value to this bump in the road. It’s enough of a holiday to require intentional planning and not a small amount of work. It’s a time to join others around a table, either our own or someone else’s, or enjoy the hospitality of a restaurant. There are things to buy, cleaning to do, and cooking involved – but none of it gets wrapped in paper with a gift tag because it’s not given by one person to another. Thanksgiving isn’t about getting gifts or giving them out. Everyone brings something. It might be food or drink, it might be helping to get the meal on the table, or it might be washing pots and pans when it’s all done. It might just be showing up, telling stories and listening to the stories of others. This bump in the road causes us to look up from our shopping lists and over-filled calendars just long enough to look across the table and see the holiness of God in the faces looking back.