Thanksgiving Spoiled, Christmas Salvaged?
“Thanksgiving as founded be th’ Puritans to give thanks f’r bein’ preserved fr’m th’ Indyans, an’ we keep it to give thanks we are presarved fr’m th’ Puritans.” (Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley’s Opinions, 1901)
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ‘tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.” (Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack.)
Preachers who decry the evils of society—particularly criticizing the way many people leave God out of Thanksgiving or commercialize Christmas—are usually branded as killjoys or Scrooges. As a preacher, I’m tempted to jump on the condemnation bandwagon as we begin another annual retail festival. But I’ve decided instead to let someone who is not a preacher address these issues. It was refreshing, and maybe a little surprising, to read Kathleen Parker’s editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post.
Eloquently diagnosing our culture’s moral decay that surfaces this time of year, she refers to our common vices of greed, intemperance, gluttony, wrath and pride. Bemoaning how consumerism has run amok, she describes Black Friday as “the super-sale day when you’re likely to be trampled to death in a stampede for The Deal.” Then she notes that “consumer-itis seems to become more acute with each passing year. Indulging and gratifying ourselves, we’re no longer subject to traditional inoculations of conscience—shame, embarrassment and fear.”
Parker’s remarks about how we generally celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas are a severe indictment of the anemic American brand of Christianity. I include her stinging words here for honest introspection by anyone serious enough about authentic faith to take her message to heart—“Our national feast day is a contrivance of mindless gorging, a mere appetizer to the galloping consumption to follow thanks to the greatest marketing scam on Earth. Celebrants seem impervious to irony as they buy massive quantities of stuff to celebrate the birth of a Savior who had and wanted nothing.”
Her words are as incisive as the Old Testament prophets’ condemnation of societal ills. And they are as forceful as the apostle Paul’s description of the way people will live toward the end of time—in love with themselves and their money, boastful, scoffing at God, ungrateful, considering nothing sacred, out of control, cruel, hateful, reckless, loving pleasure more than God, acting religious, rejecting God’s help (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
You and I may have already fallen into the Thanksgiving trap of overindulgence, but we don’t have to be duped by the marketing scam Parker mentioned. With heaven’s help, we can celebrate Christmas in a way that honors Christ—giving our Savior our heart, donating generously to His church, taking time to prayerfully meditate on the Messiah’s promised Kingdom, giving thanks for family and friends, and singing for joy as we realize God is on this journey with us through time to eternity.
Johnny R. Almond
Interim Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church; Fredericksburg, Virginia