We crowd around the fence-line and watch as the turkeys waddle around fairly oblivious to the crowd that has gathered.
The mayor waits until we’ve all arrived and then he reads the official proclamation that goes something like this:
“I, the mayor of Newport News, do hereby pardon these turkeys. May they live to enjoy many more Thanksgivings.”
Then we all clap and go back to making turkey hats and other Thanksgiving fun.
The turkeys carry on the same as ever, as if they were not just spared being the main course on someone’s table.
We’ve done this a few times now, watched as a local mayor “officially pardons” the turkeys at one of our favorite children’s museums.
Of course, these particular turkeys are never truly in much danger of becoming dinner. They are decidedly off the menu.
But this year…this year I consider their pardon….beyond the fun yet essentially meaningless ceremony we love to witness.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, but I’ve struggled this year in a new way. In fact, I’m tempted to brush right past on my way to the bigger and better things of Christmas.
This year has been beautifully blessed and I am truly and sincerely grateful because God is good and faithful.
Still, there has been sorrow this year and mourning, loss, loved ones with cancer, unanswered prayers and prayers answered with “no.”
There has been a struggle. Even the blessings only came after long seasons of persevering and battling and then, by the time you settle into the promised land, you feel more weary than victorious.
So, what I feel in me is a deep sense of longing, an intense desire to see God’s glory, to see the blessing, to see promises fulfilled, to see heaven and healing and resurrection.
I want to toss myself down at the feet of Jesus in exhaustion and implore Him to “Come. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Perhaps this is why for the first time in my entire adult life I sheepishly played Christmas music while I cooked dinner and cleaned before Thanksgiving.
Shocking. I know.
I’m a champion of Thanksgiving and of protecting the sacred celebration of gratitude before any and all Christmas cheer.
But this year the longing is intense and Advent draws me in.
I have even lugged in some of the Christmas decorations from the garage and stacked them in my kitchen. There they sit, Rubbermaid containers of joy with Christmas all ready to spill out of them.
I wanted to start slipping Christmas into the house this morning. A little decoration here. A lighted Christmas village there.
I’m desperate for the joy of knowing that Christ came. That God fulfilled HIs Word. That even in seasons of long and silent waiting, God was at work and what He did was beautifully more than anyone could have imagined.
This is the reassurance I need.
But instead of decorating the house, I went for a drive and as I did, I listened to these verses being read:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV).
This is the Thanksgiving reminder I needed.
We have been so very blessed this year and I give thanks.
But even in the middle of sorrow and sadness, of disappointment, discouragement, and fatigue, I still give thanks.
Habakkuk reminds me: “yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”
In poverty, in despair, in hunger, in failure, Habakkuk took “joy in the God of my salvation.”
That’s why I consider the turkeys this year because, while the pardon I witness is fun and symbolic rather than real, they remind me of the truest reason to give thanks.
I have been pardoned.
Really and truly pardoned.
Not just symbolically, but deeply forgiven and washed clean. Healed and made whole. Declared not guilty before God even though I don’t deserve it.
The Psalmist said:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1)
And that is me. I am the blessed one.
You and I are the blessed ones.
This is why we give thanks.
“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
(Great is Thy Faithfulness).