I don’t know if you ever thought about it too much, but every holiday we celebrate involves sharing a meal. And I mean every holiday, no matter whether it’s a religious event or civil event. And Thanksgiving is completely about the meal. Thanksgiving IS the meal.
Some of us prepare for days. Others go out to eat. Still others travel to be with family and friends. And it is one of my favorite holidays. Mainly because of the absence of commercialization. Most other holidays, even religious days, have been commercialized to the point we sometimes miss the significance of the day itself. Not Thanksgiving. It’s hard to over commercialize a turkey.
So here are my observations about Thanksgiving, along with the insights that make it such an important day for me.
My first observation is the care and preparation we put into the meal. I am the cook in our family so I make my menu (and don’t even try to introduce too many new dishes), create my shopping list, and hit the market a couple of days before Thanksgiving day. Then I detail out what dishes I will make at what time and what day so I’m not overwhelmed on the day itself.
And while I’m busy with that my wife is busy with the table decorations, which take planning as well. We also have a tradition of taking a scripture, many times a Psalm, and breaking it into individual verses for each of our guests to read as part of our giving thanks.
Like a Norman Rockwell painting it all comes together and the table looks beautiful.
Two minutes later the table is a complete mess, people passing food around, gravy spilling in the table cloth, our Thanksgiving tableaux yielding to the natural human tendency to be a little messy. That’s right. We humans can be quite messy. In all manner of ways. It’s who we are.
Meals are messy. And please, that doesn’t even include the mess in the kitchen.
We are messy, but we are also capable of cleaning up. So I skip the stress. There will be a mess. And then we clean it up.
Something else I have come to appreciate is the fact that there always seems to be enough food. No matter who shows up unexpectedly there is always enough food. And there are leftovers.
Which brings me to the connection between Thanksgiving and my Christian faith. There are so many times Jesus spends time with people eating, sharing a meal, from a simple dinner of fish and bread to a wedding banquet. Food seems to be at the heart of God’s message of compassion, mercy and grace.
The night before Jesus dies, on the eve of his execution, he gathered his friends. To share a meal. I can imagine him, preparing for what was to come, and wondering what gift he could give his disciples that would help them remember all he had taught them, all he had revealed to them about what it meant to live in God’s kingdom.
The gift he gave? A meal.
Not any meal. Jesus actually identified himself with the meal, with the bread and wine, calling it his very body and very lifeblood. He also told them that whenever they broke bread and shared a cup as the way of remembering him, he would be present with them. How present?
It is said that we are what we eat, which means the more we come to understand what Jesus did in that meal, what he still does in that meal, we become his body and his lifeblood.
We become the compassionate, loving presence of Christ in the world. And I’m thankful for that gift.
Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours.