For the first time in 30 years of marriage, we will have Thanksgiving in our own home. All the other years we have traveled to be with family gatherings. This year, however, I’ve just had minor surgery and while I could travel, my girls seized the opportunity to insist they would cook our Thanksgiving meal. Under Cynthia’s guidance in the kitchen, I’m confident the meal will be excellent.
But the change of ritual makes me wonder what it is about the Thanksgiving holiday that so tugs at our hearts. I don’t believe it is the desire to be “thankful” for a day. People either live lives of gratitude or they don’t, and a holiday isn’t going to change that. No, the power of Thanksgiving has to do with our common longings.
Our individual celebrations may have little to do with the idealized scene of sitting down at a bountiful table to share a meal with family and friends, but we still want it to be true, if only partially so. We want there to be a place we can come home to, a place where we are welcomed without question. We want there to be a seat set aside for us, where we are expected to be present. And we want the assurance of plenty for all, a fullness of food, joy and fellowship.
These longings are good, God-given, I believe. For they point us to the one place they can truly be fulfilled, the table of the Lord. The image of the messianic banquet (Luke 14) stands silently behind our idealized Thanksgiving tables, and the One who has prepared all things for us desires us to know the fullness of life only He can provide.
Thanksgiving will be a busy time for many people – filled with travel, hunting, cooking, parades, shopping, conversation, work, and who knows what else, as we try to fill our hearts. It is right to stop and give thanks for the blessings we enjoy. But I wosnder if our longings and gratitude can lead us to the presence of Christ, the all-sufficient One.