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I saw my first Christmas television commercial on Halloween. On Nov. 1st, I saw my first Christmas tree in a neighbor’s window.
Now, I am as big of a fan of Christmas as anyone else. We will get our tree the day after Thanksgiving, play Christmas music, and sip hot chocolate. However, it looks like I missed the memo that Thanksgiving has simply become another Thursday in the march to holiday cheer. Last year many of us were forced to skip Thanksgiving.
This year, we will miss out if we choose to skip Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving really boils down to one simple concept: it is a meal. We all eat meals multiple times a day. We will do it the day before Thanksgiving and we will do it after. We do not need to buy gifts for this holiday. We do not need to decorate our house. There is no religious service to attend. It really is just about eating food. When I put it like that, Thanksgiving actually seems even easier to skip!
But sometimes, the simplest things are the most profound. What if Thanksgiving has the possibility of holding the most value of any holiday this year?
The power of Thanksgiving starts in the simple act of making time for a meal. Time may not cost any of us money but giving someone else our time is a valuable gift to share. Instead of rushing around to find the season’s hottest toy or cleaning up the leaves in the yard to make way for inflatable Santa, we make time for our friends and family, demonstrating their importance to us. Rather than allowing our calendars to be overwhelmed with overtime shifts and cookie exchanges, holiday parties and Christmas light bonanzas, we stop and first make time to sit down and enjoy a meal.
For when we stop to make time for a Thanksgiving meal, the possibilities reach far beyond full bellies and dirty dishes.
Peer into the kitchen and find your nephew standing on a chair, licking the pumpkin pie bowl while grandma shares her secret ingredient. The kitchen becomes a space for making memories across generations as family recipes are passed down.
Walk outside to the turkey fryer to find cousins deep in conversation about the hunting season, and about the challenges this year brought. Suddenly relationships deepen beyond holiday hellos to supportive friends.
Come to the table where every person has a seat. Regardless of what job they do or do not have, what clothes you wore, who she voted for or what his life looks like, everyone has a seat around the table. Is there someone you can invite to this Thanksgiving table? A new neighbor on the street or a lonely coworker? Maybe there is a family member who needs to know they are loved. Then, when the mashed potatoes and gravy get passed, love and joy are shared too.
Jesus modeled this for us. When the disciples were tired and worn out, Jesus took the time to share a meal and delight in one another’s company. When the disciples were ready to get to the next thing, Jesus stopped and fed 5,000 people. Jesus ate with everyone, regardless of wealth or status, family history or religious pedigree. Every person had a seat at the table with Jesus. Even at the very end of his life, with someone he knew would soon betray him, Jesus sat down with his disciples and enjoyed a meal.
Thanksgiving might not be easy. There may be people you would rather not talk to or eat a meal with. But what could happen if we stepped into the discomfort and tried? Stopping to prepare a meal and eat together may seem like a roadblock on the way to “better” uses of our time, but in the most important moments, Jesus stopped and ate with others. In the stopping we can rest. In the sharing we grow together.
Taking the time to share this meal creates opportunities to look into tired eyes or delightful smiles. We move past platitudes and receive the gift of time with others. We experience laughter and smiles, joy and gladness. This Thanksgiving, take the time to share a meal with others. You never know what you might find.
Brittany Kohan is a local pastor and Briar Chapel’s unofficial “Neighborhood Chaplain.” This coming spring, she will join the Chaplaincy team at UNC Hospital.
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