Changing times

Perhaps every holiday invites some thinking about the past. We remember previous celebrations and notice the changes that occur in our lives. Change is a constant. We grow older. New people come into our lives. Loved ones come to the end of their lives. Holidays are filled with memories of firsts and lasts: the first Thanksgiving with the new baby; the last thanksgiving with Dad. Early in our marriage Thanksgiving was an occasion for us to start new traditions for our family. Our second Thanksgiving found us in Chicago - to far away from family to make the trip home for that particular holiday. We learned to gather with friends and enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. One of the guests at our third Thanksgiving in Chicago had grown up in a family that operated a restaurant. I had carved a turkey before, but he taught me how to carve and bone a turkey the way professionals do it. I’ve remembered those lessons ever since.

Yesterday was a wonderful day for us and we enjoyed close friends and a wonderful meal. We spent the entire afternoon sitting around the table, talking and enjoying one another. I couldn’t help but speculate on some of the changes that are a part of our life. We know that it is likely that we won’t be celebrating our next Thanksgiving here. What has become a family tradition will need to change. But we’ve had lots of changes. We’ve celebrated in a lot of different places and ways.

Thanksgiving is a special holiday for clergy because we aren’t used to the concept of weekends. Because we work on Sundays, our sabbath needs to be a different day of the week and often doesn’t line up with what the rest of the world is doing. But Thanksgiving weekend usually offers a three day weekend for pastors. Our children were out of school and we had time to enjoy one another. Thanksgiving weekend often included opportunities to go sledding or take a hike. For a few years we were given the opportunity to use another family’s mountain cabin and get away from the phone and the worries of everyday life.

I remember a few years ago when I noticed that people were wanting to stretch Thanksgiving weekend. Our tradition had been to gather for a community Thanksgiving-Eve celebration in one of the downtown churches. A colleague suggested that we move that service from Wednesday to Tuesday because people want to travel on Wednesday to be with family on Thursday. The concept made sense and the time of the service was changed. It is now our tradition to hold that service on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. But this year the public schools in our town took the entire week off from school. Attendance at the service was light. There was some speculation that perhaps the service needs to be a week before Thanksgiving because so many people are not available Thanksgiving week. I don’t know what shape the service will take in the future, but I know that things will change.

Because of the extended week from school, we noticed that a lot of families in our church were celebrating Thanksgiving on days other than Thursday. “We’re having our Thanksgiving on Wednesday.” “We’ had ours last Saturday.” It is a funny conversation in a way. I grew up with holidays occurring on a specific day, not with the concept of a moveable holiday. The changing days of celebration combined with a forecast blizzard for tonight meant that we had staff working at the church yesterday. It seemed really strange to me to be taking a day off when others were working. I exchanged several text messages while sitting at the table with a staff member who was getting ready to print the bulletin for Sunday. Thanksgiving weekend used to be a time when we had the bulletins printed on Wednesday so everyone could take the same days off, but flexibility to accommodate the needs of various families necessitated the change. And I can remember when my cell phone didn’t work in the location where we were celebrating Thanksgiving. Those days are past.

Another changed is the accuracy of weather forecasts. I grew up paying attention to the weather because my parents were pilots. My father taught me how to read weather maps at an early age and we would go together to the Flight Service Station to get the latest forecasts when planning trips. These days I can view the doppler radar from my cell phone. Forecasts are updated minute by minute and they are remarkably accurate. We’ve lots a bit of the sense of “we’ll take the weather whatever comes.” I still threw a parka in the back seat of the car yesterday and made sure that I had tire chains before heading into the hills to our friends’ house, but I’m pretty confident that blizzard conditions won’t be coming until tonight. And we can plan ahead to deal with the weather. I’m confident that we will need to reschedule tomorrow’s hanging of the greens in our sanctuary. We might even have the first Sunday of Advent without the Christmas Tree up. We didn’t used to know ahead of time what conditions we’d be finding 24 hours in the future.

So we’ll gat a few chores done today and make sure we’re ready to hunker down when the snow and winds are raging outdoors. We can make a few plans and we should be dug out in time for worship on Sunday morning. Folks heading out to the hills to cut their Christmas Trees are probably OK this morning, but should plan to get home by there early afternoon. Snow probably won’t start accumulating until mid-afternoon. The full-bore blizzard won’t arrive until after dark. Tomorrow will be a good day to stay inside. It could snow most of the day, which means we may need to get up early on Sunday to dig out.

We live in a constantly changing world. Some things have improved. Some things we miss terribly. I don’t mind accurate weather forecasts, but I don’t want to have every moment of my life planned in advance. A few surprises now and then spice things up nicely.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!