This week around tables and living rooms across the world, families gather. Christmas Eve. Christmas morning. Christmas dinner. The long, lazy days after Christmas. Sitting together sharing stories, gifts, and great food. At least this is what we want, right?
Some families have this experience. Some don’t. Some of us wish we had people to be with. Some of us get to be around people, but not really with them, spending hours with people we don’t really connect with out of some kind of obligation.
In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.
In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.
I was startled one March morning to notice a massive buttery spread of thousands of flowers along the tree-studded ridges where I had walked daily. How had I missed hints of this development? Had it occurred last spring as well? Even the carpet of green blotchy foliage which precedes the blooms and was so obvious the following years, had gone unnoticed. Further investigation revealed that this was an endangered woodland plant: yellow trout lilies (erythronium americanum), that grew in colonies and could take up to eight years to reach maturity and bloom.
Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, before the prayer is said, it’s become a tradition in my family to go around the table and say what we have been thankful for this year. Perhaps your family has a similar custom. It seems the ritual has been around for much longer than you or me – as The Book of Common Prayer’s beautiful litany holds true as much today as it did when originally published in 1549.
In celebration of this Thanksgiving Day and the season of giving on which we are about to embark, I’d like to share this Litany of Thanksgiving:
Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.
Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
'Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.
I have been thinking about the Investigative Judgment and all the theological reasons, arguments, and details that many of us worry about, discuss, have even argued over in some cases! But if all we have is the theoretical head knowledge, none of it really matters very much. I have been impressed lately that the Investigative Judgment is a matter of the heart.
Recently my seven-year-old son took a “mental health day.” OK, maybe that’s not what it was. I don’t know.
He woke up tired and snotty. He didn’t seem sick enough to deserve to skip school. (I come from a long line of parents who believed that only severed limbs and near-comatose illness got you an excused absence from school.) But he was dragging badly. That’s not normal for him. Tigger is his spirit animal! So, I decided to keep him home.
Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ —Matthew 7:21-23 The Message
“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.