When you score an entry in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you know you’ve created a unique meaning while using the simple building blocks of common vocabulary. “The” is a definite article: it sets up what follows as unique and significant, measured against all others. “Holiday” is another basic language marker that has come to apply to any day one doesn’t have to work, despite it’s origins as a contracted form of “holy day,” based on religious terms.
The Holidays: “a time from November until the beginning of January during which many holidays are celebrated.” (Merriam Webster) Based on that decisive declaration, we’re now traversing – together – through The Holidays.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are the cultural Big-Three. For Christians – living from our Scriptures while living in our society – the believers’ Big-Three aren’t confined to the six weeks at the end of the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are in the running for Hallmark and Heaven, but culture’s #3 – New Years – fades when Christians’ #1 – Easter – is put on top of the stack, driving Thanksgiving and Christmas down the ladder…
There’s another issue we need to address. American life has been whacked. As one astute observer put it, Americans are people who “worship their work, work at their play and play at their worship.” With the controlling influence afforded work and play, the “federal holiday” schedule has become more defining than an informed understanding of our need to take time-outs and reset our navigational gauges.
You’re probably looking into 2019 already, getting things on the calendar that will be prioritized as you manage the precious commodity of time. Let me give you the holiday schedule that isn’t embedded in the one you are working with – electronic or printed – but can transform your life:
Thanksgiving: while many look for Pilgrims or Presidential Proclamations to validate Thanksgiving, it is – for Christians – founded in instructions given to us centuries earlier. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus… Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 2 Corinthians 9:15) Think about what you did last week: family and loved ones around a table, eliciting input from all about the ways God has favored and blessed them, allowing gratitude to be freely expressed. When should that happen? In America, it’s the 4th Thursday of November. For Christians, Thanksgiving is every day.
Easter: the name itself has murky origins from sources other than Christian tradition, but recalls the week framed by Jesus’ Triumphal Entry (Palm Sunday) and his Resurrection (Easter). The most defining reality of the Christian faith is the Gospel of Salvation, played against the backdrop of that moment in time: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Jesus’ resurrection happened on Sunday; Pentecost happened on Sunday. Within a short period, the emerging church began their weekly gatherings on the first day of the week. For Christians, it’s Easter every Sunday.
Christmas: detailed in Matthew and Luke’s records of Jesus’ life, the day celebrating the birth of Jesus has become a confusing blend of cultural consumerism and religious devotion. For Christians, it’s an opportunity to bring the conversation back to consider the birth of history’s most awesome figure: “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” (Galatians 4:4). The birth of Jesus – Christmas – is an annual reminder of the Incarnation. How many people around you know that?
Happy Holidays! Thanksgiving every day; Easter every Sunday; Christmas every year.