Wishbone and Drumstick are the luckiest turkeys in America. Wishbone was born last June 28. He weighs thirty-six pounds and has a wingspan of four feet, eight inches. He is said to be partial to the music of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
Drumstick was born on the same day. He weighs forty-seven pounds, with a wingspan of five feet. He prefers the band Journey.
How do we know so much about these two turkeys? Because they were chosen to participate in the seventieth annual presidential pardon. They stayed at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in downtown Washington before being pardoned by President Trump on Tuesday. (Per tradition, Drumstick was pardoned publicly; Wishbone was pardoned in absentia.)
Today will be a bad day for forty-six million turkeys, but a good day for at least two.
Fortunately, we won’t be eating other foods the first English colonists consumed. Researchers studying bones in an early seventeenth-century well at Jamestown discovered that the people also ate horses, rats, and snakes during times of privation.
Nor will we be wearing black clothes and buckled hats like the Pilgrims. (It turns out, they didn’t wear them, either.) And I hope we won’t abstain from having fun like the stodgy Puritans. (Actually, they enjoyed laughter and dressed in bright colors.)
As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving today, I’d like you to consider another bird in addition to the famous American turkey.
When I was in Israel last week, I prayed at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Above me towered the Dome of the Rock, located at the place where Herod’s temple stood in Jesus’ day.
Herod’s temple was actually more than twice as tall as the Dome of the Rock. It was stunning in architecture and design, with massive stones and elaborate artwork. But it was the purpose of the temple that especially impressed me as I prayed at the Wall.
Worshipers brought with them sacrifices intended to atone for their sins. As Judaism 101 notes, central to the Jewish sacrificial system was “the element of substitution. The idea is that the thing being offered is a substitute for the person making the offering, and the things that are done to the offering are things that should have been done to the person offering. The offering is in some sense ‘punished’ in place of the offerer.”
Among the sacrifices acceptable to the Lord were “turtledoves or pigeons” (Leviticus 1:14). The sinner would hand the dove to the priest, who would sacrifice it on the altar. The Lord “transferred” the sin from the man to the innocent dove, whose death paid the penalty the sinner owed.
Near that temple twenty centuries ago, Jesus “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He became our final sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-18), the sinless Savior whose death atoned for all our sins.
Among all your reasons for giving thanks today, I encourage you to put your salvation through Jesus’ atoning death at the top of your list. Anglican bishop J. C. Ryle noted that “one single soul shall outlive and outweigh all the kingdoms of the world.”
You are that soul.