Given our proclivity for applying names to certain otherwise ordinary days, I’m not surprised that someone decided to designate the day after Black Friday as “Small Business Saturday.” But I think we need a lull between the marketing mayhem of Black Friday and officially kicking off the colorful chaos of Christmas. So, I’m suggesting that we designate it as a day to pause and reflect on what God endeavored to teach us in the course of our Thanksgiving celebrations. With the beginning of Hanukkah not far away, we could give it a Jewish flavor and call it “Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace) Saturday”. Reviewing the insights that occurred to us during Thanksgiving might help to make them more enduring. Beyond that, it may help to better prepare our hearts for kicking off the Christmas season. In light of that, I thought I’d share an observation or two that occurred to me regarding our family’s approach to Thanksgiving dinner.
An Unexpected Beginning ~
The Scriptural groundwork for my post-holiday reflections seems to be more appropriate for Christmas than Thanksgiving because they tend to direct our thinking toward the miracle God worked when He blended eternal, sovereign divinity with finite mortality in the virgin womb of an ordinary young Jewish girl. He created a human replica of Himself who, at the same time, was like all other human beings and ‘unlike’ any and all others. Jesus was in every sense God’s only Son. Every aspect of the nature and character that exists in God the Father was and is in Him. Everything needed to initiate and sustain physical and spiritual life was inherent in Him, and everything we need to equip us to live forever is found in Him. Without Him, we have no hope. God encapsulated the core of that concept in two simple but profoundly inclusive statements:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1–2 NKJV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NKJV)
Now the question becomes, how do we associate such lofty theological truth with something as earthy and temporal as a Thanksgiving dinner? The answer lies in another comment that Jesus made about Himself:
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32–33 NKJV)
An Odd Comparison ~
The connection between Jesus and the food God provided to His people in the wilderness is not surprising. Without the manna, survival would have been impossible for the Israelites, and without Jesus, spiritual survival is impossible for any of us. Food has always been a subject of great interest to God, and He has had much to say about it. There are spiritual truths to be conveyed and lessons to be learned around our dinner tables. The issues are not just what’s on our plate and how much we consume, but does it illustrate principles that we ought not to ignore?
As I reflected on our Thanksgiving dinner and the traditional feasting going on everywhere, I was struck with an unexpected comparison. I wondered what it would look like if we responded to our Thanksgiving meal in the same way that many seem to do when it comes to dealing with Jesus. My observations might sound a bit ridiculous, but bear with me. There’s a fundamental principle they have in common that I think is worth considering as our dinner invitations begin to accumulate with the unfolding of the Christmas season ahead.
- Hopefully, all of us recognize that the food on our dinner table has a limited list of effective pragmatic applications. As you might expect, gravy makes lousy furniture polish, and rubbing yourself down with a hunk of roasted turkey won’t prevent sunburn. And if you dump the string bean casserole on your head and try to use it for shampoo, it’s just going to make an awful mess. In a nutshell, you get nothing out of a Thanksgiving dinner except for the parts you actually eat.
Given that we so readily recognize that physical contact doesn’t impart nutrition, it’s puzzling to see how so many fail to see that that same principle applies in the spiritual realm. The life and the power to live it is in Jesus Himself. Unless and until He lives in us, we cannot reap the benefit.
- Most would never think that memorizing every item on the entire menu and analyzing the contents and chemical composition of each of them is the way to absorb all that our Thanksgiving dinner has to offer. That might be a good mental exercise, but it won’t inject any nutrients into your brain, and it won’t help when you start feeling weak because you’re hungry. To get that benefit, the food has to find its way into your stomach.And along those lines, taking classes in Biblical studies, and being familiar with the historical progression of Christianity won’t fill that aching spiritual emptiness in our hearts. Following Jesus cannot be reduced to an academic exercise. There are mental benefits involved, but they are applied from the inside out.
- Feeling emotional as we survey our Thanksgiving table isn’t unusual. After all, it’s almost always surrounded by those we love and represents the many sacrificial efforts they made. But shedding our tears and writing a song about the joy of Aunt Hilda’s jello salad won’t give us an energy boost from the sugar in it. To get that benefit – you guessed it – you have to actually eat the jello.
That’s true on the spiritual side as well. God loves our praise and rejoices with us in our worship, but eventually the music stops and the crowd disburses and goes home. The uplifting energy that goes on after the lights go out comes from the One living inside.
- Listening to an eloquent and passionately delivered speech about the role turkeys have played in the course of human history may be intriguing, but there’s no protein in it. To get that, you have to eat the turkey, not just listen to stories about it.
Racking up hours on a church pew and accumulating recordings of passionate sermons will not account for a single sin we’ve committed. Our only hope is to have a Redeemer willing to take our condemnation upon Himself. A covenant like that demands a deep personal commitment that listening to speeches alone can’t produce.
Traditions We Don’t Develop ~
We don’t approach our Thanksgiving dinner table thinking about doing any of the ridiculous things I mentioned. We don’t come to just look at the turkey, or use the gravy for skin cream, or memorize the chemical makeup of sweet potatoes. We’re not interested in singing songs about the string bean casserole or listening to sermons about the spiritual implications of stuffing. We came to our holiday dinner planning to eat as much of it as we could hold, enjoy it, and allow our bodies to transform it into living parts of us.
Wouldn’t it be astounding if every one of us came to Jesus hungry for all He died to offer us? The transformation can be incredible and the sense of fulfillment indescribable when the nature of the living God becomes a living part of us.
I don’t know what your “Shabbat Shalom Saturday” reflections might be now that Thanksgiving is in our rearview mirror, but this much I do know. The transforming work that Jesus came to do in each of us can’t be done from the outside in. Following Jesus demands receiving Him and allowing Him to have free reign in us. The good news is that there are no excess calories involved – and all the side effects are positive.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “God worked a miracle when He blended eternal, sovereign divinity w/finite mortality in the virgin womb of an ordinary young Jewish girl. He created a human replica of Himself who was both like all other human beings and unlike any others.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus was in every sense God’s only Son. Every aspect of the nature and character that exists in God the Father was and is in Him. Everything needed to initiate & sustain physical and spiritual life and to equip us to live forever is found in Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Taking classes in Biblical studies and being familiar with the historical progression of Christianity won’t fill that aching spiritual emptiness in our hearts. Following Jesus cannot be reduced to an academic exercise.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Racking up hours on a church pew and accumulating recordings of passionate sermons will not account for a single sin we’ve committed. Our only hope is a deep personal commitment to a Redeemer willing to take our condemnation upon Himself.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Wouldn’t it be astounding if every one of us came to Jesus hungry for all He died to offer us? The transformation can be incredible and the sense of fulfillment indescribable when the nature of the living God becomes a living part of us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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