That is not what Thanksgiving really looks like for me. Let me tell you what it REALLY looks like. The mismatched dishes are setting the dining room table. Most of them are of the same pattern but there were not enough so a few odds and ends were needed to complete the table. Napkins are of the large, paper variety – because the cloth ones were lost sometime after last year’s feast and nobody noticed until this morning. Crystal? Ha. The wine glasses are a hodgepodge of glassware picked up from various sources and at least one is chipped in a potentially dangerous way. Don’t worry- I’ll take that one. And when the food is presented to the table it never comes on matching serving platters or bowls. It is every veggie for himself in this house. The carrots fight with the green bean casserole for the good dish. The stuffing and mashed potatoes are in a death match to see who can score the new bowl. Only the turkey comes out of this unscathed (if you can consider being stuffed with bread and roasted unscathed.) The turkey gets a designated turkey platter handed down from Grammy Dot. Actually – most of the special serving pieces – the ones that make a once a year- appearance – are hand-me-downs – or as I like to claim, heirlooms from the beloved family. The beloved heirlooms that show up once a year- much like the relatives who come with their annual argument or pet-peeve, or irritating habit. This is what thanksgiving looks like. Really.
Unless, of course, it doesn’t.
While some of us are joining family around a table groaning with food – others of us are preparing to go to work to feed society’s appetite for consumerism. Some stores are open all day on Thanksgiving while others open in the afternoon or eleven or midnight. Will we remember at our tables those who are not allowed to have a day of thanksgiving set aside? Those Walmart employees who are forced to work on the holiday or face losing their jobs. Those Target employees who need to wait by the doors at midnight to heard the stampede of shoppers rushing for a cheap Blue-ray player. Police details at the outlet mall who direct frantic shoppers into parking places. What is thanksgiving like for them?
Why do we bother anymore with the pretense of Thanksgiving being about gratefulness when it seems that the reality of it is more about preparing for black Friday sales and eating until we go into a tryptophan coma? What would it take to reclaim Thanksgiving as holy time? Perhaps it is a matter of recognizing the holy when we see it...when we experience it....
When Jesus healed the ten lepers he sent them on their way to show themselves to the priests. In order to return to community- the lepers must be declared clean by the priests- they can’t do it themselves- they need outside validation. It was the correct thing to do- the appropriate thing to do – the standard thing to do. And then into this action of moving ahead – doing the predictable thing- one leper turns around. He breaks with the expected routine to thank Jesus and praise God.
Breaking the expected routine to thank Jesus and praise God. Hmmmmm. Sound familiar?
What makes the moment holy? The breaking of the expected routine or the thanking and praising part? Or is this a YES AND moment.
What makes it holy?
Perhaps it goes back to that perfectly set Martha Stewart table from the picture. Is this a holy place and a holy moment? When everything is literally picture perfect – and of course, only picture perfect people could enjoy such a picture perfect meal in a picture perfect environment. OR.....
Perhaps the Holy moments are found not only in the saying of grace around the table but in the sacred moment of unguarded food when the dog jumps up onto the table and bites into the turkey. Perhaps the holy moment is found when the 2- year old refuses to eat anything but butter - that’s it- just butter. Or maybe the holy moment is when the turkey comes out of the oven still frozen in the middle or with a melted bag of giblets inside. Or when the picture perfect ideal of thanksgiving is met with a holy moment of chaos. When we break the expected routine and come out of it praising God.
Thanksgiving – a moment set aside- a time to break with the expected and to turn back – thanking and praising.