November 1, 2009

Burst the Bubble

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God's own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

-- Henry Alford, 1810-1871

November. Turkey and stuffing cometh. Thanks be to God.

Families differ, of course, on their habits and hang-ups around the Thanksgiving table. But in one form or another, there is often a kind of bubble that hovers over the big meal: a certain pressure to keep the conversation light, keep it general, keep it not-about-us in ways other than who is hoarding the potatoes. After all, there is national politics to debate, football losses to thrash out, workplace woes to deconstruct.

(No bubble over your table? Then thanks be to God. No need for what follows.)

Imogen Heap has a nice little ballad about a child at the feasting table that keeps hoping (praying?) that her family will steer out of its predictable skid of holiday arguments and tensions by actually naming their love for one another. The chorus, her prayer:

It's that time of year
Leave all our hopelessness's aside
If just for a little while
tears stop right here
I know we've all had a bumpy ride.
I'm secretly on your side

My simple November charge is to burst the bubble, whatever it may be. Take the lead and take a moment to name the goodness and greatness of God you have known in your life this year. “Raise a song of harvest home,” Alford might say. Don’t worry so much about whether others will follow suit, or how they will feel about it. Just worry about whether you can trace the lines of God’s generosity in your own continually-unfolding narrative of baptized faith. And for that matter, go ahead and trace the lines of your love for those around your table. Sure, they already know how you feel. But they need to hear it, and we need to name it.

Bubbles remain intact in families because, by and large, we worry too much about honoring old habits of silence or protecting familiar discomforts. To be sure: No one is suggesting a diatribe, or a lecture. Merely a little testimony: that blessed first-person singular song of gratitude whereby at Thanksgiving one surpasses turkey-passing for a little truth-telling—the truth of God’s way with you, how it is that “all is safely gathered in” in your life this very year.

Raise a glass. Raise of song of thanks to God. Burst the bubble.