I was too excited to sleep this morning. In fact, although I am not an early riser, I heard the grandfather clock in the hall strike 5:00 a.m. this morning. I almost felt like the little child on Christmas morning who can’t wait to head downstairs with the rest of the family and see what gifts were under the tree. Even back then, 70 years ago, we had a Christmas morning tradition – we went downstairs in order of age – Dad, Mom, then I was next, followed by my younger brothers as they arrived in the family. It’s remarkable how these traditions create such strong memories.
Today is Thanksgiving Day. And it is already memorable for several important reasons. First and foremost, today marks the 50th year in a row that I have prepared the Thanksgiving turkey. FIFTY YEARS!!! Not one miss… no restaurant celebrations, no ordering out, not one skipped – every year adding a link to the unbroken chain that started when Janet and I were married back in 1973…
To be sure, the family tradition goes on much longer than that – probably about 100 years by this time. As a youngster, I watched my grandmother and great aunt prepare the bird. As they got older, Mom stepped in and helped out, while I watched everything that was going on. Then I became the official apprentice – destined to some day carry on the family tradition that dates back to the early 1920’s – at least I can trace it back that far!
I guess you could say that I was trained to like a certain way of cooking turkey… and when Janet and I married, I stepped up to begin the process of taking over the annual duties. The rest, as they say, is history. Ten years ago, our son, Andrew, decided he didn’t want to see the recipe discontinued so he embarked on a ten year apprenticeship with me to learn the secrets of the Thanksgiving turkey tradition. Today, he graduated. The future is assured. The family tradition is secured for at least another generation. He will be at least the fourth generation to eventually take the helm and lead the Thanksgiving Day festivities.
Tradition… It’s defined as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.” I am committed to traditions. I firmly believe that familiarity and constant attention to the ways of the past help bind us together as a family. They give us a firm, reliable foundation on which to reinforce our commitments to one another and a legacy for the future. In a way, they provide a unique identity – a family to go through life with marking the passage of time each year with a celebratory event remembering the blessings that we have received during the year.
Janet and I remember our earliest Thanksgivings. And now, as the eldest generation, we look around the table knowing that we are creating, and have created, memories for our children, grandchildren, and perhaps someday, our great grandchildren. It’s something tangible – something reliable – something dependable. No matter what happens in our individual lives, Thanksgiving is set in stone. All are welcome…
It has become the favorite meal of the year for most of us. Yes, the work is incredible. And Janet and I struggle a little more each year, but our children have stepped up to help and that eases the burden for us. Someday, we may have to transition in some way… but that’s in the future… for now, it’s still the same… and that’s what I am concerned about today.
As I look back throughout the years, I realize how much I have learned sitting around the Thanksgiving table. Memories of parents and grandparents, now all gone, as well as the addition of new family members as they join us in God’s perfect timing. The depth of love and caring, the joys and sorrows we have shared together, the ascension from being a young child to now being the aging head of the family.
These yearly reminders mark the passage of generations of time that are indelibly imprinted in my DNA. Hopefully, they will provide a similar framework for our grandchildren – Kristin, Jill and Andrew, our own children, have already embraced the sanctity of these occasions many years ago. There is so much more to this day than turkey.
Our verse for tonight is from Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica. He tells the congregations there, as well as us, in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions that we taught you, whether by speech or by letter.” This applies to our families as well as to the word of God.
My encouragement this evening is that there are numerous opportunities for us to share the Gospel as well as teach our families about the traditions that we celebrate. My prayer is that we will all provide a reliable foundation filled with steadfast love that our families can depend on all the days of their lives. Happy Thanksgiving and from our family to yours, we hope that you have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…