This might be a disappointing post (length-wise), as I don’t have much to write about, and if there’s one thing I hate to do it’s to contrive something for the sake of its own contrivance.
Thanks, but No Thanks
While I am (or like to think of myself as) an idealist in certain circumstances, I think my tendency is to swing cynical. Contrivance, phoniness, superficiality, these things grate against me year-round as it is, so the ‘holiday season’ for me, as you might imagine, can be as filled with sneer as it is cheer. Nonetheless, I am in this world — not of it, as they say, but also not above it — so I press on and in, and do my best to inquire rather than simply criticize. This post will be a little of both.
The holiday season in America (which I predict by 2025 will actually be long enough to contain both a solstice and an equinox) has developed a culture of what I’ll call seasonal obligatory moralism, which I’ll define as: “the periodic social necessity to manufacture interpersonally the appearance of purity, virtue, and civility, with respect to tradition and the time of year.”
Rousing choruses of ‘Tis the season to be jolly, should be entering one’s mind — wherein the season itself (of some apparent sentiency) necessitates our emotional state of being. This is the time to be jolly. Why? It’s Christmas. But what if I’m not feeling jolly? It doesn’t matter how you feel, it’s Christmas: be jolly. Oh, okay… fa, la, la… la….. (thud).
But this post is about Thanksgiving, as today is Thanksgiving. And, of course, it’s a pretty obvious one: the name of the holiday designates a very specific action which purports to be in direct relationship to the day itself. Picture the happy, pure, virtuous, civil family, gathered around the table bedecked in bird and cornucopia, each furtively and reflectively offering the thing for which they are most thankful. (I don’t know if you noticed, but even Facebook is asking “What are you thankful for?)
And then there is the pure, virtuous, civil Christian reaction to seasonal obligatory moralism, which is simply to utter some contrived verisimilitude along the lines of, “But we know, of course, that we should be thankful to God each day of the year, and not just on Thanksgiving.”
Alright. Enough finger-pointing, eye-rolling, “O-the-never-ending-hypocrisy!”-moaning cynicism.
Certainly God designed seasons, the natural ones — all four of which those of us blessed to live in a temperate climate can experience. (No, southern California: you don’t have seasons, only the one. And yes: you’re missing out.) God also instituted new seasons, times and festivals, celebrations and remembrances. He marked our calendar with days set aside for a specific purpose. His first action after creation was rest: making a holy day on which we stop the ongoing, cyclical routine of our lives, and do something different and specific.
And certainly God does desire us to be thankful every day. Paul claims that continual thanksgiving is God’s will for us: period (1 Thessalonians 5). He wants us to recognize Him as God no matter our circumstances, and take time to stop and give thanks. What else do we have to give? (Touché, happy Christian family. Touché.)
Similarly, I’ve nothing else to give to this blog post but the following encouragement:
Don’t simply go through the motions, but don’t neglect God’s intention for any day or season. Be thankful, jolly, mournful, whatever the holy day is calling for, but do so genuinely, not for appearances’ sake (rend your hearts, not your garments). Don’t be swept up into whatever superficial contrivance our culture is drawing you toward, but don’t take the stubborn scoffer’s seat either. Inquire, press in, and give thanks.