That’s sinful. Sorry.
Norman Rockwell was the artist who painted a lot of classic pieces that showed American culture in the mid 1900s. Life was good. Families were together. People were happy. He did a Thanksgiving piece called “Freedom from want” where the big family with big smiles is gathered around a big turkey. It’s what Thanksgiving is supposed to look like.
It’s a beautiful painting. Nobody is eating alone, hurting and wishing for things to be like how they were. Nobody’s just pretending to be thankful while they feel empty. Nobody spilled on the carpet, and so nobody is yelling. Nobody is drunk and saying things that they shouldn’t. Everyone’s happy and actually speaking to each other. Nobody’s crying in the back room.
I want to punch Norman Rockwell in the mouth because it’s a beautiful painting, but sometimes Thanksgiving doesn’t look like that. If your Thanksgiving doesn’t look like it should, it’s painful seeing the perfect family with perfect smiles who have no problems. We want that.
We want it so bad we’re willing to chase down self help books that don’t really help. We’re willing to pretend everything’s fine when it isn’t. We’re willing to pretend, at least for a day, that our families aren’t broken somehow. We act out our traditions and hope nobody messes up their part so we can recreate that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. Some years it seems to work. Some years it doesn’t, no matter how hard you try.
Sometimes you sit down to a meal of thanksgiving with a family that doesn’t look like everyone else’s family. With friends who are spending the whole meal arguing. While someone is secretly planning to betray you with a kiss.
Jesus did. It was His last supper. We call it the Eucharist. It means thanksgiving. The last supper was a meal of Thanksgiving. It wasn’t because it was the perfect meal with the perfect family. Far from it. It was because in it, our Lord gives Himself to sinners. He speaks words so powerful they cut right through all of the sin and pain at that table. “Take. Eat. This is My body, given for you. Take. Drink. This is my blood of the New Testament, shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.”
When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, we really do eat and drink Christ’s body and blood. We really do receive the forgiveness of sins. Your sins are forgiven. That changes things. It means that what’s broken around you is healed. Not in a “let’s just pretend” way. Real, in a way that lets us actually take all of the pain and frustration and lay it at the foot of the cross where our Lord died for us, bearing the weight of all of our sin for us, and call it finished. Real, in a real way that lets us cast off the guilt for what we’ve done wrong to the ones closest to us. Real, in a way that lets us look at the people across the table with eyes that don’t see sin, but a sinner who Christ actually died for. Real, in a way that undoes the power of death itself, and gives us hope that those who have been cut off from us in faith are not gone, but we will see them again in the fullness of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end.
Christians celebrate the Eucharist on Thanksgiving because it’s a meal that forgives so powerfully that it undoes sin and joins us to heaven itself. Christians don’t have perfect families. They have Jesus, who forgives. When they sit down together, they sit down as brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiven, and whole, joined by a God who loved them enough to feed them with His own body and blood.