My favorite sermon title ever: “Why Thanksgiving Always Comes Before Christmas.”
Each year this has new meaning for me. One year, it was the poster of things our family was thankful for. One year, it was thankful things on slips of paper in the turkey centerpiece. One year it was the photo of the ultrasound that would be my third child. We are a very small family, so it tends to be a quiet unassuming time.
This year was different, we were filmed. Our every preparation was documented on video, even time lapse photography of the dough rising for the dinner rolls. We didn’t dare make a move in the kitchen without alerting our daughter that we were about to…whatever. Did she want to record it? It’s funny what you do when you know you’ll be on film.
The irony was, all this footage was for juxtaposition. As backdrop to the events of the next morning. Her plan was to set up in the dark and cold on Black Friday morning and record time lapse photos of shoppers entering and leaving the Target against the rise of the sun in a very cold day after Thanksgiving. Her theme: what you miss out on when you hurry to Friday.
Time lapse is a fascinating thing to watch. Hours collapsed into seconds. Days into minutes. Years into hours. A whole lifetime, in a movie seating. The camera doesn’t select the best or the most memorable, it just marches on click-clicking. It records snapshots and compresses them into a living video. What would such a video of my life look like? Non-selective, random, regular recording. Sun rise and sun set. Day in and day out.
The things best recorded and most in focus would be the stopping times. Those moments when I paused long enough to consider, to pray, perhaps to help or to devote or to sit beside. Perhaps I would be recognized by the things repeated, that would be defined in the overlay. Things I did again and again, year after year. I hope thanksgiving would be one of these things.
It seems different every year, but it’s the one thing – perhaps the only thing – that we can agree on in our country; that we stop and give thanks on the 4th Thursday of November each year. But even that I see changing, as Black Friday sales have slipped into Thanksgiving Thursday evening hours. The moments spent with family – are they stolen? reinvented? compressed to make room? For sure, they are ruining the overlay.
Neighbors on our street crack me up. They have inflatables for all seasons: a jack-o-lantern, an Easter bunny, a snow globe snowing on snowmen. Last year there was one turkey; this year there were five. Mom, pop, and the three kids. (Who needs window stickers when you have inflatables?)
I chuckled to see the new additions on Thursday.
Today, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, they have a new arrangement. A line of turkeys marching away from the corner. Presumably, away from Thanksgiving. What if, instead of bidding farewell to thanks, we let it lead us through the whole holiday season?
I think that was what Pastor Phil meant by that Sunday sermon. We always have Thanksgiving before Christmas because what a thankful people we are to have a Savior coming into the world yet again. A world grown darker since last year. A world even more self-sufficient. A world wrapped up in itself. Where Black Friday seeps into Thanksgiving Thursday because the stores are “just giving people what they want. More time to spend.”
Perhaps they have miscalculated. There is no such thing as more time. It is measured the same for all of us. There is however, time well spent.
What a documentary film our lives are making, recorded on heaven’s video, as time marches on and we lapse. Then repent. Thanks be to God for His one and only Son, here to set us right once again.