How do you feel when you think of Thanksgiving?
Perhaps you feel anxiety over all the preparation needed or you’re worried about what conflicts will occur between guests. Maybe you feel joy because all of the family will be gathered together and you’re excited about carrying on family traditions. You might feel sadness because there will be an empty seat this year or disappointment because things never go as well as you hope. Maybe your family drives you crazy and you feel angry that you even have to be around them. Likely, you feel a mix of some of the above.
Despite the deep emotions surrounding the holidays, we are commanded to be a representative of Christ in all we do or say. It’s up to us to bring Jesus to our Thanksgiving gathering.
Maybe this is easy at your Thanksgiving table because your whole family is serving Christ. Or maybe your gathering will be like mine and have some family members who are walking far from him, even some who have purposefully turned from him in the choices they’ve made.
How do we bring Jesus to a table full of people like that?
We have to remember Jesus’ heart. Mark tells us that Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Loving people –in any condition- is the heart of Jesus. It’s what He came for! As his representatives, we must be clothed in love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14)
What can we do specifically to bring Jesus to our Thanksgiving table?
Don’t be distracted by a phone or device.
Choose to fully participate in the festivities, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. (I’m talking to myself here, friends! By about 15 minutes in, I’m usually ready to find a quiet room all by myself.)
Don’t allow yourself to get so wrapped up in tasks that you neglect people.
Listen, really listen, to the people gathered around you. The holidays have a way of causing people to pause and reflect. As a representative of Jesus, we should listen deeply and intentionally. Which leads me to the next point…
Watch for opportunities to be the ears and voice of Jesus. Listen for chances to naturally share some of the story of what God has done for you. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)
Watch for opportunities to be radically kind and loving with your words and actions. Be crazy encouraging to others. Be wildly attentive to what people are saying and not saying.
Have the courage to go there when prompted or to hold back when necessary. Pray for discernment about this!
For some of us, being watchful might mean watching our tongues. It might mean we don’t say some of the judgments our minds are making. That we choose to see our family member as Jesus sees them- as sinners, just like we were, in desperate need of his saving grace. It means “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that our thoughts don’t become our words so that our words don’t become a poor representation of our savior.
Be watchful for anyone at the table who seems to be struggling or appears to be left out. Step in to offer kindness and love.
Be a servant
This is the most visible way of all to be like Jesus. Serve others. Be on the lookout for ways to help.
Help the hostess cook or set the table.
Hold the baby for the tired mama so she can enjoy her meal.
Clean up the mess that someone else’s kids made.
Pour the tea or beverages for everyone.
Deliver slices of pie to those who have moved on to watching football.
Put away the leftovers so the hostess can enjoy her guests.
The king we represent came to serve, not to be served. We represent him well when we serve those around us.
During Thanksgiving, we interact with people who may not be a daily part of our lives. Treat this holiday gathering as a missions opportunity. Purpose in your heart that it will be an enjoyable experience, with delicious food, where you will be the ears, voice, hands, and feet of Jesus.
Let’s talk about it in the comments! Are these things easy or difficult for you to do? What other ideas do you have about showing Jesus to our families?