Forget the Valentines: Celebrate Thanksgiving in February
February is a dull month in Wisconsin. The little groundhog comes out of his hole. Then you get Valentines Day, the over-hyped over-romanticized commercial holiday guaranteed to disappoint. Plus president’s day, which is hard to get buzzed about. Then coldness, darkness, shoveling, and slush. Oh joy.
February in the farmer’s year is also dull. It’s too early for the first thaw when pea seeds drop in the ground and asparagus spears sprout up. It’s not the hopping summer months of lush greenness reminding us of God’s abundant proclivity to procreation at every turn. It’s not the harvest time of heavy wheelbarrows loaded with zukes and pumpkins and apples. It’s just February. Waiting. The most a farmer has to do in February is page through seed catalogs with a wistful yearning.
It’s no wonder we don’t have harvest Thanksgiving celebrations in February.
It’s easy to think about giving thanks in September or November if you’re living close to the land. The year’s harvest is in, freezers and canning shelves are filled tight, and the sagging seed heads of wildflowers giving their last along roadsides are still poetically beautiful.
September and November are the seasonal equivalent to getting a brand new job that promises to use your every gift and passion. It’s like driving home with a new baby, or finding another $1,000 in your bank account, or receiving a visit from an old close friend. It’s easy to give thanks when goodness is abundant and new.
Sure, I’m all for celebrating at times like these, when the harvest is plentiful and fresh. Part of the laws given to the newly forming nation of Israel in the Old Testament were guidelines for celebrating the harvest (Dt 16:15). And in that kind of harvest celebration, God promises “your joy will be complete.”
It’s easy to find joy when God’s gifts are new.
But we have to keep celebrating when gifts get stale, too.
Lately I’ve been working my way through posts about seven sources of joy that I noticed when I looked up the word joy in my Bible concordance. Number two is “Joy found in recounting and celebrating God’s works.”
I love that when I lumped together verses on this category, I found not just verses about finding joy right in the midst of God working in our lives, but also about joy continuing years and generations later as we keep on remembering what God has done.
Psalm 66, for example, is the kind of cheerleader hooplah intended to get every last soul out of their seats and shouting. “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!” it begins. The NIV version has two more explanation points in the first five verses. The cause for this excitement? All God has done. On the list are long-gone historical events like crossing the Red Sea, as well as personal vows fulfilled, forgiveness from God, and answered prayers.
Let us “tell of his works with songs of joy,” says another Psalmist (107:22), and over and over the songs insist we tell the stories of God’s intervention in our lives, not just when it’s fresh, but for weeks and months and generations to come.
So today I’m thinking turkeys.
I’m pulling out my Country Living Encyclopedia to see what it would take to raise a few next summer. But more important, we’re doing a little Thanksgiving right now in February.
I’m pulling a turkey out of my freezer. Some time soon we’re sitting down at our big table to give thanks for God’s works, both recent and distant past.
You’re all invited. Just let me know and we’re sure to have space at the table.
And what’s on your list of works God has done? What memory do you need to dust off and recount with joy this month?