Picture, if you will, the traditional Thanksgiving meal: family from near and far gather around the dinner table. The turkey, cooked and carved to perfection, sits in the middle of the table, surrounded by the various fruits and vegetables that the Chief Cook And Bottle Washer decides will go with the bird. The fine china and flatware are out. It’s picture-postcard perfect.
Conversations that moved from the living room to the dining room come to a close. People stare at one another and look to the head of the table, at whomever may be sitting there, wondering what to do next. After all, it’s Thanksgiving; shouldn’t somebody be giving thanks?
Finally, after a suitably uncomfortable silence and a few throat-clearings, the person at the head of the table says, somewhat reluctantly, “Well, um, let’s give thanks.” As if on cue, heads bow and eyes close. A further silence ensues. Some begin to wonder whether the bird is going to catch a chill while all this goes on.
Says the one at the head of the table: “God, um, we, um, are thankful for this food, and, um, our family. Amen.”
Eyes open, and heads slowly are raised. Without actually moving their heads, family members look at one another as if to say, “I know what I’m thankful for: I’m thankful that the prayer is over.”
As the potatoes and turnips are passed, people notice that one family member, the youngest, still has her head bowed. One seated next to her gives her an elbow nudge, fearing that she’d gone to sleep. Ignoring the nudge, the child finally raises her head.
“What was that?” said her older brother, the one who nudged her.
“What was what?” said the little girl.
“Why did you keep your head bowed after everyone else was finished?”
“I wasn’t done praying,” she said.
“Why not? The rest of us were finished, and ‘Amen’ got said.”
“I had more things to thank God for, so I wanted to make sure I got as many of them in as I could.”
Her brother shrugged his shoulders and accepted the turkey plate that was being passed his way. Nothing more was said that day. It would have been hard to have said much, given that everyone was eating as if it were his or her last meal.
In too many homes, this scenario might be all too familiar. Somebody says “grace” at Thanksgiving dinner – and probably at Christmas, and maybe even at Easter – but the prayer is said as if grasping at nebulous words in a conversation with an introverted stranger with whom we’ve been cornered at a cocktail party.
Thanksgiving, according to the Bible, is not a once-a-year endeavour, but a daily one. Take a concordance (or go to www.biblegateway.com) and look for the phrase, “give thanks”. You’ll see it more times than you can count with your fingers and toes, because, for the Christ-follower, giving thanks isn’t just an autumnal occasion. It’s a lifestyle choice.
When we are thankful to God on a daily basis, it becomes easier to find things for which to thank God on special occasions, like Thanksgiving. Why not try it, starting now? Think of one thing, today, for which you are thankful to God. Then, tomorrow, try for two. Then three. Pretty soon, you’ll be like the little girl in the story, and your list will be growing.
“[G]ive thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.18, NIV).
May you have much for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving, and every day.