It has been more than three decades since the late Adair Chapman shared the following story with his readers:
As most families in the community were gathering around dining tables for Thanksgiving dinner, I stood with another family and a few friends who had quietly assembled in the small country cemetery to bid an earthly farewell to a young man who had died in defense of his country. Down the road, sounds of laughter and exchanged greetings between those who had come home for a holiday reunion seemed in cruel contrast with the suppressed sobs of the bereaved. The simple graveside service over, we returned to the house where friends and neighbors had prepared dinner for the family. Sympathetic neighbors could provide food and speak words of comfort, but there was on thing they could not do. They could not fill the empty chair that remained unoccupied during the meal. As the little family ate in silence, the father turned his face and looked through the window toward the hillside where the beautiful floral arrangements would soon wilt, and slowly remarked, “Someday, there’ll be a better Thanksgiving.”
One week from tomorrow our nation will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It has been recorded in the pages of history, and the annals of Congress, that this nation of ours should set aside and recognize one day a year as “Thanksgiving Day.” I cannot remember a single year that has ever passed wherein I was denied the opportunity to observe this national holiday, and most of the time those days of celebration were spent with family. This Thursday will be my 66th such occasion, even though the first dozen years are not as vivid in my memory as the past dozen. “Thanksgiving Day”! What do those words mean to you? What thoughts and memories do they conjure up in your mind? To some, Thanksgiving Day is one of back-to-back football games, early morning Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, the smell of turkey cooking in the oven, and left overs at days end. To others it is nothing more than an extended weekend, an extra day at the office, or an opportunity to spend some time in a lease waiting for that deer to drop by your way so you can “bag” a six pointer, or tell about the one that got away. And, sadly, to some it will be a day of ill health, loss of a loved one, or some tragedy that might strike at some unexpected moment in our life.
Thanksgiving Day should cause us to pause and reflect on our good fortune and “every good gift and every perfect gift” that has come down to us “from the Father of lights, with whom there can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning” (James 1:17). But it should also cause those who are God’s children to reflect upon that day when the “better Thanksgiving” will be bestowed upon us. The words spoken by that bereaved father in brother Chapman’s story are the expression of those who hope in heaven, and look forward to that time when we shall be forever reunited with our spiritual family. In that day God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, sorrow, pain or suffering. “Someday” we will sit down at a table so unlike the Thanksgiving Day table at which we will sit next week and join hands and give thanks to the Father in heaven. “Someday” our thanksgiving will be expressed not just on one day, but throughout eternity as we bow at the feet of our Father. Turkey and dressing will not fill our stomachs, but the fruit from the tree of life.
After the celebration of Thanksgiving Day, many of us will bid farewell to our children, grandchildren, parents and in-laws who have come to enjoy the food and fellowship. For some that farewell will be for only a few days; for others the time between visits will be months, if not years. For some it will be the last farewell this side of eternity. But “someday,” when the Lord comes again, “we that are alive, who are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
Wherever you happen to find yourself this year when our national Thanksgiving Day arrives, be sure to use the day for the purpose for which it was intended and give thanks to the Father Who has so richly blessed you. And then take a few moments and remember that someday there will be a better Thanksgiving.