It is Thanksgiving weekend and there is much parading. We have the annual Macy’s Parade and the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Both filled with charming floral floats, sky towering balloons, jazzy marching bands, powerful horses and light flashing fire and police mobiles. Thousands of people gathering in celebration. All under the banner of American Thanksgiving Day.
My favorite is the parading of dogs at the annual Thanksgiving Day National Dog Show. I enjoy watching the breeds strut around the arena with such discipline, strength, beauty and character. I certainly watch for the boxer in the competition and find myself comparing it to my sister’s wonderful boxer, named Emerald. The dogs and owners have worked hard in hopes of winning the title of “Best of Show.” All under the banner of America is thankful for man’s best friend and that dogs are still superior to cats.
There are the processions that kick off the holiday shopping season. The ones that take place outside the shopping malls, electronic outlets and toy stores. Hundreds of people camping out in line in order to blitz the store racks the moment the doors open. I am surprised more people don’t get injured by being trampled. Something to be thankful for I suppose. All under the banner of holiday gift shopping deals.
Americans have perfected the art of parading and it is not just isolated to Thanksgiving weekend; nevertheless, after witnessing the parading events of this weekend, I was reminded of the apostle Paul’s joyful exclamation of thanksgiving when he writes, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Prior to this statement the apostle Paul explains many hardships that he has experienced while traveling and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. At this point, he changes his focus and attitude in order to give his readers a more positive perspective. Paul is essentially saying that despite all the difficulties, “thanks be to God.” He then continues by explaining why he gives thanks with the help of imagery.
When the apostle Paul writes about Christ leading in triumphal procession, he is using an image of a Roman triumphal procession. In the ancient Roman context, Roman conquerors would return from battle with victorious celebration. The commander’s chariot would lead the winning soldiers in procession while incense was burnt to the Greek gods and fragrant flowers were strewn along the way. The defeated captives were shamed and paraded around in humiliation. The Romans knew how to have a victorious parade.
With the use of this Roman triumphal procession imagery, the apostle Paul presents a more glorious triumphal procession led by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the victor over the enemies of darkness who become the captives to be shamed and paraded around in humiliation. He has conquered over the consequences of sin by means of his death and resurrection. Christ followers are the winning soldiers who celebrate in triumphal procession and thanksgiving. Thus, in the apostle Paul’s contextual situation, he is thankful that he is a victorious soldier in Jesus Christ. Although the apostle Paul faced many challenges, Jesus Christ ensures the fragrant spread and effectiveness of his preaching of the good news.
Christ followers have a lot to be thankful for and regardless of the challenges or hardship individuals face this Thanksgiving weekend, they can be reminded that Christ always leads them in a triumphal parade. Early church father, Ignatius of Antioch, said in the first century “Our Lord was nailed on the cross so that through his resurrection he might set up a banner of victory throughout all ages.”