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Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

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Thanksgiving Holiday Advice

Alas, poor Esther (Williams, that is), we knew thee well. Let me explain. Decades on file, my bride held firm to her resolve to stay home Thanksgiving, and have family in. It was her second, though grandest, family meal at the Goodwin Hall parsonage. Nineteen persons rallied ‘round the groaning dining room table.

Now—back to Esther. Hazel bought our turkey early and kept it in the vault at the bank until early week. She brought the bird home and began the directions reading and thawing operation with which so many of you holiday cooks will identify. The plump little bird held court in our two-sided sink. She bobbed chest down, butt up. Overturned, she repeatedly backstroked across the sink so often that I named her Esther (1950s swimmer, movie star). Well, Esther truly gave her all. Dried off from her kitchen swim, she hit the oven with purpose. She was more than appreciated at Thursday’s table. Hardly scraps enough were left for a decent turkey sandwich by Friday.

My Thanksgiving prayers were lifted for all those who have made such a day possible. From our settling ancestors (both on the James and in the Massachusetts Bay Colony) to our parents who brought us into this world, I found moments of deep appreciation.

Beyond that, however, is the absolute realization that I am blessed to have been adopted (married, borrowed, and given) into so many wonderful families. I did moisten an eye a bit as I recounted how many were absent. Some were memories, as death had knocked. Others were absent because they were gathered at tables afar. They were there in my heart nonetheless.

Hard on the heels of full-belly departing family, we heard a rattling at the closet door. Our Christmas tree was demanding to be “out.” Well, I tripped over and removed all the things that thought to rest on the carton since we wouldn’t need it until later. Right—it was later. Eventually box upon box hit the living room floor until assembly was possible. First the stand, then the tree. Branch upon branch teased “you still have to put the lights on, ha, ha.”

By Saturday evening, we threw the switch and eureka: we had lights! Ornaments old, collections from our two families, merged. The tree sagged with the love of Christmases past and Christmases future. I come from the ‘pick-um and hang-um’ school of tree decorating. My bride comes from the place and time school. Her familiar ornaments already had reserved branch tips. They were introduced to the Farmer family heirlooms. Tediously, with great measurement and care, ‘spectacular’ took on refreshed meaning.

Now, you may have heard a rumor about my tree spirit at Christmas. Think nothing of it… Hazel is unperturbed by my past grievous sins; my lack of bubbling enthusiasm for celebrating tree-time. She once volunteered me to decorate the tree that the former Bank of Lancaster offered at auction to raise money for our YMCA. So, that 4504 Irvington Road Christmas tree was in fact my second of that season. Such an admission could ruin my reputation as a Grinch.

Well, we still have page enough for some advice. At the base of Scripture, “others” find purpose. They do so by being loved by the faithful. They do so by returning such love. Truly the greatest love story ever is that in which God saw a dying humanity and reached down to alleviate our struggle. He took the innocence of a tiny baby and required a blood sacrifice. Ah, Christmas: soon, I say, soon.

In a stable rude, God gathered family dear, two- and four-legged. I feel warm all over just contemplating how precious was that Birth. That is a message Holy that we can incorporate into all our seasonal preparations, celebrations.

Like the restructured family at stable and table, I have been woven into all sorts of new relationships. The ones that carry me forward are the ones in which the love and care of other individuals have ministered to me in ways beyond my fondest hopes and dreams. I once thought my celebrating was over. Hazel brought a son and daughter to our table, our tree. The Coan Church invited my little boy and his family “home.” My hands shake at the wonder of it all. God is so good to me.

Given government’s control of 2020 invitations, find place around your Thanksgiving table,‘round your tree this Christmas, for someone whose family list is scant. Call Social Services and ask for a family blessed with too much poverty. Reach for your wallet while standing in line at shops bedecked to help that mom, that grandparent ahead of you in line, make it a truly grand Christmas for some little girl or boy. Get to your House of Worship this Christmas. Take in all the pageants you can. Absorb all the carols and music of the season that your eyes and ears can collect. Invest others in every Holiday celebration. Make it a HOLYday.

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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