Advent 1 and the full rush of the Christmas season may already be upon us, but in a world where JC Penny’s is so desperate for cash that they’re opening at 2pm on Thanksgiving Day, it seems appropriate that this blog, only barely resuscitated from a long layoff, pauses to reflect on Thanksgiving, one of only two secular holidays that is given Major Feast status in our Book of Common Prayer. Not to get too deep into it, but the tradition of recognizing some kind of harvest festival pre-dates the Christian Way by millennia. According to Marion Hatchett, in our tradition, a means of giving thanks for God’s provision first appeared in the 1662 Book, and was upgraded to a votive, complete with propers in 1928. The 1979 Book is the first time it is listed among the Major Feasts (the same pattern from 28 to 79 is true for the other secular feast, Independence Day). As usual, I’ve digressed.
In my congregation, Thanksgiving Day will be the last celebration of the Eucharist in Year C. The Gospel lesson appointed comes from John 6 and is well suited to our consumerist culture that requires retail employees to eat Thanksgiving breakfast with their families because they have to work a 12-hour shift beginning at noon so a store full of more crap that nobody needs can open at 2 (Ask me my unpopular hot take on election day as a national holiday sometime). Jesus, having just fed the multitudes sent his disciples to the other side of the lake while he prayed. In the middle of the night, Jesus met the boat by walking across the lake, much to the disciples amazement.
The lesson opens with the crowd, having run around the lakeshore to find where Jesus and his disciples had gone asking him, essentially, “how’d you get here?” Jesus, always quick with a non-sequitur replies by wondering aloud about the crowds motivation. Did they come seeking him out because he had fed them? Was it because of the miracles? No, Jesus suggests, those things, while powerful and indicative of the work God was doing in the world wouldn’t sustain them. What the crowd really came to find was “food that endures for eternal life.”
To use a crude metaphor that is from before my time, the Kool-Aid that Americans have guzzled down willingly is that we don’t have enough and more will make us happy. This theology of scarcity, coupled with the political cult of the zero-sum game has created a scenario in which millions of Americans will rush out on a day that is set aside, by both secular and religious authorities, to give thanks for all that we have, to buy, buy, buy more, more, more. We are addicted to food that perishes, and the system is quite happy to keep us buying more, paying sales tax, interest, and late fees, until the weight of debt crushes us all.
This Thanksgiving, reject the narrative of “not enough.” Take the day, the whole day, to stop feeding the addiction to food that perishes, and give thanks to God for the abundance that you already have. Feasting on food that endures to eternal life will do good for your soul.