Transplant Day: A Different Approach to the Holidays

You awake with a sharp pain in your lower back. A sudden jolt forces you to reel through your short-term memory for something you may have eaten or done that would be an explanation for your discomfort. Nothing comes to mind. Then, over the next few weeks, you feel your body weakening. Your energy level declines. Your breathing grows difficult. Your appetite decreases. After talking to friends and trying a few home remedies to treat your symptoms, nothing seems to change. Then in desperation, you call your family doctor and set an appointment. At your visit, He runs the standard tests to find a few abnormalities and proceeds to tell you that it may take some time to reach a correct assessment.

Another week passes, and your health dramatically declines. Then the inevitable call comes. The sight of your doctor’s office on your caller ID sends panic through your soul. Rather than the receptionist, the doctor is on the line when you answer, affirming your fear. You know there is something dreadfully wrong. He requests that you come to the local hospital to discuss the immediate steps to take. You arrive to discover that you’re suffering from an unusual hereditary disease that is destroying one of your kidneys, and it will soon fail. The timeline for your life, in a moment, is cut short to a matter of months if you decline treatment.

The only remedy presented is an emergency transplant of one of your kidneys. However, there is no known match to your blood type. After a few days, the search is fruitless. Back at your family clinic, you’re astonished as your longtime family physician offers you a unique pathway to healing. He offers to give you one of his kidneys. It would be a significant risk for him, but he offers to save your life because he cares for you and loves your family. You gratefully say, “yes.”

A week later, you and your doctor arrive at the hospital for the transplant. Moved by his great sacrifice and compassion, you say a tearful “thank you” to him as you both enter your corresponding operating rooms. The surgery is a success. You are saved! Within weeks your body is healed, and your doctor is fully recovered. The genetic flaw that once crippled you is no more, and you have been given a new life. Your doctor freely gave you all that you needed for health. Shortly afterward, You, along with family and friends, commemorate the day of your surgery, labeling it “Transplant Day!”

On your first-year anniversary, you call your doctor and pour out your thankfulness and recount a full year of great joy and hope because of his sacrifice. Your entire family and his family celebrate “Transplant Day” with kidney-shaped decorum, meals, and family-fun enjoyment. Then a few years go by, and you’ve moved forward in maturity and health. However, “Transplant Day” remains a significant holiday on your calendar. You’ve told all your friends about your doctor, but the story has become well known, and your sense of gratitude has been dulled over the years. A decade passes, and your kids, who were not alive at the time of your transplant, only have heard stories about your famed doctor. To them, “Transplant Day” is a tradition of family fun and relaxing. Somehow, you lost connection with your doctor and, though you’re thankful for Him, your appreciation has devolved into a story that you’ve grown tired of sharing. A few more years pass, and the “Transplant Day” tradition gets lost in all the festivities. Your grandchildren know that this day is important, but can’t articulate the actual meaning of its importance. As the decades pass on, other traditions are made, but they solely are for the indulgence of the day.

This tragedy, I believe, portrays the disregard our current culture holds toward our sacred holidays. Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were once days of grateful celebration commemorating the “transplant day” for all humanity. Thanksgiving and Christmas were initially associated with the celebration of God, the Great Physician, stepping into our sin-corrupted realm. The timing of His advent into our world was associated with the ancient Jewish festival of “Tabernacle.” Yes, Thanksgiving finds its roots far deeper than the Pilgrims’ story. They, like the Jews, were an agrarian culture who looked to God’s provision in a time of great crisis and recognized His providence to be the life-giving salvation they needed. Ironically, “before coming to the New World, the Pilgrims lived among Sephardic Jews in Holland for a short time. It is believed that our American Thanksgiving tradition may have been indirectly inspired by the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.” [1]

The similarities of these harvest festivals are undeniable. The point in this realization is that Thanksgiving, though transferred across cultures, was intended to be a sacred day devoted to thanking God for His provision and promise to live among HIs people. In the New Testament account of Christmas, Jesus arrives fulfilling this great expectation. He comes to live or “tabernacle” with humanity. Of course, we don’t know the actual day on which Jesus was born, but the concept of God coming to live with men is most closely associated with the Jewish harvest day of Sukkot.

Then there is Easter Sunday. The day on which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. On this day, Jesus made a way to take His nature and transplant Himself into us. By believing this, we immediately inherit the healing we need. This day above all days, should be more than a token celebration of rabbits and candy. It should be honored with profound gratitude and worship. Our modern-day habit of reducing the greatness of God’s work into thirty-second sound bites causes my soul to revolt. When I hear trite sayings and songs that grievously neglect our sacred opportunities to worship Jesus, I know we are being robbed of the hope which was birthed on these days. Thanksgiving has been trivialized to the consumption of turkeys and pumpkin pies. With all its heart-warming traditions, Christmas has been reduced to family festivities and party time with friends. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy family time and great friendships and food. However, when we consider God’s costly sacrifice for us, how can we merely attend the traditions of these days without telling the story of the great transplant we have received?

How can you bring honor to Jesus during your holiday celebrations? Take the time to tell your kids about your “Transplant Day.” How did Jesus extend His saving power into you? Tell your kids the testimony of God’s greatness before all the superficial fun of Thanksgiving and Christmas rob them of the meaning of these days. You may find that re-telling of your salvation story can bring a new reason for joy into your holiday season.


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