For many of my years, “Home for the Holidays” was in the back of most people’s minds come Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For younger generations, it meant a trip to ancestral homes. It could be Mom and Dad’s House, while for others, Grandma and Grandpa’s. For older generations, it often meant having most of the family under one roof again.
Although far from universal, I remember when many would make a point of going to God’s House on Thanksgiving, as a family, even if only for a few moments. But that seems to be a thing of the past with the declining place of religion in so many lives.
In this Vincentian Mindwalk I reflect on a practice that seems to be non-existent. Going to God’s House to give thanks on Thanksgiving.
The Psalmist’s joy at going to God’s House
A grandparent looking forward to the presence of children and grandchildren at Thanksgiving said these words, “I now understand just how happy God must be when we arrive at God’s house.”
The psalmists looked forward to going to the house of God. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122
For the Psalmist and those who lived in earlier times, giving thanks and praise meant going to Temple and giving thanks as God’s family.
There was something heartfelt about going to God’s house… about deliberately setting a time to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father, the source of all gifts and especially the gift of our lives.
The experience of love in God’s House
This same grandparent offered another insight.
God’s place is a grace place! We know we will be accepted and loved forever. We remember that the grace of God is not limited to just one generation but is a love that continues down through the generations.
God’s place is a place where we can slow down enough to know God’s love for us is unfailing and where God does not deal with us as we think we should deserve.
God’s place is where remember that God is like a father who is tender and compassionate toward his children. (Psalm 103)
Current realities get in the way of going to God’s house
Unfortunately, in our mobile times, it is a rare family that can have all generations under one roof.
There is just so much to do before, during, and after the annual celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday.
It is unlikely the kids hurried out to the car to buckle themselves up all the while expressing a deep longing to get to church as soon as possible. It is unlikely that any of us went to bed the night before dreaming of spending the morning in the blessed presence of God and each other.
Of course, today, we live in an era of politicization. “Home for the holidays” can also bring fear of family conflicts breaking out because of our highly politicized environment.
Over the last few years, more than one article offers tips on how to survive deep-rooted emotional differences around the family table. (How to survive political conversations over the holidays.)
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if together we could find the joy that fills the psalmist at going to the house of God.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our prayer before we eat came from someplace deep inside us?
Making time for thanking God
But perhaps we can …
- Remember to thank God for our blessings as we sit down together.
- Find time during the weekend to pause for a bit, go up to God’s house to thank the God who loved us into being.
As a kid, and even into later years, before I had an understanding of the Sacred Triduum, I had an understanding of a *secular* triduum of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Although they each had their special celebrations and meanings, as do Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, they easily got lumped into that lovely catch-all, “the holidays.” When anyone wishes you “Happy Holidays” there’s no confusion about which holidays they mean, at least, in cultures that have a Christian influence.
As has been noted online, there are more than two dozen “holidays” celebrated by various cultures and religions between the middle of November through the beginning of January. So, it is clearly the “holiday season.”
In recent years, because of some of that politicization, I have gone back to an old standby of business greeting cards, “Season’s Greetings.” That includes in its borders our celebration of Advent as well. While each liturgical season has its merits and methods of celebration, we still live in a very diverse world and joining others in their celebrations of life is a special gift we receive at Baptism.
So, to modify that saying slightly, because there are many seasons, Seasons’ Greetings.