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Thanksgiving & Advent Reflections

November 24, 2014

Putnam Park

With all of the debate about Black Friday creeping into Thanksgiving and who’s open and who’s closed in terms of retailers, it is easy to forget what this week is about. For me, it is an interesting crossroads spiritually and professionally.

Thanksgiving has always been a busy time of year.  Early in my ministry, the local Ministerial Association had an Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service in Fergus Falls, MN the night before Thanksgiving day.  Since then, it depended upon where I was in the world what we did as a family. The first year at my assignment at Royal Air Force Station Mildenhall in England, we went to have an “American Thanksgiving” at the original Hard Rock Cafe in London. And yes, it was a very authentic meal right down to the stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie! Another Thanksgiving I helped the base leadership serve Thanksgiving dinner to our fellow deployed warriors in Southwest Asia. And at other times it was a quiet dinner at home with family and friends who had nowhere else to go for the holiday. After all, in the military, it was fairly easy to create community and family no matter where you were stationed.

For the past four years, Denise and I begin by helping friends deliver meals to low-income shut-ins in the morning in Mobile followed by a feast with friends and extended family.  What has been especially helpful in grounding me is the time spent bringing meals to folks who might not otherwise have a nice meal. In many cases, we walk away after delivering the meals wondering who blessed whom!

For some reason, this year I find myself looking at the blending of Thanksgiving along with the First Sunday of Advent which is a mere three days later. The theme of Advent is waiting, so I find myself reflecting on that along with what we should be doing while we wait. Just as Denise and I make a conscious effort to do something as we waited for the Thanksgiving feast, aren’t we called to make a conscious effort to do something for the Kingdom while we await Christ’s coming again in glory?

The picture at the top of this blog is a very special picture for me. The rock is on the banks of the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Wisconsin where I went to college. It is also the point where Putnam Creek, which winds its way through the campus of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, feeds into the river. On that rock back in 1980, I received my call to ministry. When I was able to take Denise back to see it, some 33 years later, it struck me how incredible the journey from that time and spot had been. Receiving a call to ministry in 1980 and having to finish my Bachelor of Business Administration before starting Seminary in 1983 taught me a lot about waiting. I can’t say that I did a very good job of doing something constructive for the Kingdom in that time. However, God did teach me a lot in those three years and those lessons did sink in!

Watching and waiting has been a recurring theme for me in my personal and professional life. But isn’t it supposed to be for us as Christ followers? So what do we do while we wait? Remembering the lesson from the sheep and the goats from last week’s reading from Matthew 25:31-46, we do have some choices to make about how to spend our time. How will you spend your waiting time? Will Thanksgiving be only about turkey and football? Will Advent be only about how many shopping days left until Christmas?

My prayer is for all of us is this: May it be a time of refreshment, family, and fun; while at the same time looking out for opportunities to serve Christ and be a Christ-light to others who may be walking in darkness.

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