A Guaranteed Happy Thanksgiving
A Thanksgiving Devotional
For weeks I had been planning this holiday with an excitement that could not be contained. My family would be traveling 700 miles to visit me for Thanksgiving. I poured over magazines with pictures of beautiful holiday table settings. Wonderful memories flooded my heart as I remembered the countless Thanksgivings spent with family, sitting around just such a table. Despite my apartment being tiny, we would all squeeze in and make it work. Mike and I had been married less than 3 years, with one child and another on the way. Morning sickness prevailed but I didn’t care~I missed home, I missed family, I missed all of us sitting around the dinner table together.
Everything began just as I had planned, but it all went downhill on Thanksgiving day. One family member after another came down with the stomach flu~in the very worst way. Everyone ended up sick except for me. It is an understatement when I tell you that our apartment was tiny. There was barely enough room to walk by each other and with only one small bathroom and 5 sick people… well you can only imagine. I had a lot of cleaning… and then more cleaning to do, with no time to rest or even celebrate. Add morning sickness to the equation and my picture perfect Thanksgiving turned into a nightmare. No sitting around a table filled with a cornucopia of delicious foods and thankful spirits.
We all want that picture perfect Thanksgiving dinner, Martha Stewart style. We have high hopes that the Turkey will turn out a beautiful golden brown, that family will all get along and that laughter along with delicious pumpkin pie will ensue.
That we will all truly be thankful.
Sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way we hoped, especially during the holidays. The turkey is too dry, we burn the biscuits, we wonder why we’re the only one doing all the work, the stress levels in the kitchen are at an all time high and that one family member gets on our last nerve.
And then we lose it. Our frustrations boil over just like our mashed potatoes.
And so, as we approach this week of gratitude I would like to challenge you to focus on a different table setting. That of the last supper. There is so much we can glean from the scripture passage in John 13, and it stirs my heart. Who is sitting at your table? The focus in John 13 was not the food or even the fellowship. The focus was Jesus and the example He set for all of us as we sit down to our Thanksgiving meals.
I would like to leave you with five things to meditate on this week. It might seem lengthy, but if you choose to focus on one every day~ it’s a guarantee your Thanksgiving supper will be a happy one.
1. A gift in the gratitude~Jesus gave thanks despite knowing what was ahead. Despite the wicked betrayal in the heart of Judas, despite the foreknowledge of Peter’s denial, despite the coming abandonment of the disciples who professed their love for Him. (Luke 22:17-18, Matthew 26:26-27, Mark 14:22-23.) Maybe you are excited about Thanksgiving, or maybe you are stressing over it~ whatever your case may be, you can change your outlook by choosing to give thanks. There is so much to be thankful for, starting with our Savior. How could He possibly be thankful in that moment? And yet, He was. Emulate His gratitude. Find something to be thankful for every day leading up to the big day. A habitual heart that beats a thankful rhythm will not easily be dissuaded when faced with difficult circumstances or people. Look to Jesus and just be thankful.
2. A gift in the giving~ Jesus became a servant. He never complained, but in humble love washed His disciples feet~ even the feet of the one who would betray Him. (John 13:4&5) Prepare your heart to be a servant this Thanksgiving, even to those you feel don’t deserve it. Judas certainly didn’t deserve it, but that didn’t stop our Savior. Serving others should never be viewed as an unwanted duty. Choose to bless others by the love you put into that service. Determine not to have a grumbling heart, but instead a thankful servant’s heart that God can use. Have the heart of Jesus.
3. A gift in the guidance~Despite knowing Judas would betray Him, Jesus chose to love and serve him and told us that we should follow His example. (John 13:11, 14-15.) We are human, there will always be that one person that annoys us (because they are human too) despite the little idiosyncrasies that get on our last nerve, none of them compare to sitting at supper with Judas. As you sit to supper this Thanksgiving, remember Jesus example and His words to us in admonishing that we follow that example.
4. A gift in the getting~Jesus actually told us something simple, yet profound. By following His example we will in turn be blessed with happiness. (John 13:17.) Okay, who doesn’t want happiness during the holidays? Who doesn’t want to fall into bed at night after a wonderful meal and precious moments with family and friends on Thanksgiving, and have your heart full of happiness? It doesn’t have to be something we wish for. Happiness can be our reality this Thanksgiving if we put into practice the steps He outlined for us in His word. Become a servant of love.
5. A gift in the glorifying~The last thing I want to leave you with in preparation of your week ahead is the very gift you will give to others by following Jesus example. (John 13:31&32, 34&35) You will be loving others with a true servant’s heart and in the doing, that love will glorify God. Isn’t that the ultimate goal? It’s not about us. It’s not about the food or the Pinterest perfect table setting. It’s all about the joy in sharing the love of Jesus. It’s all about the happiness in the serving. It’s all about the glory of God.
Remember that Jesus is sitting at your table with you this Thanksgiving. He is all you will ever need in making beautiful God moments and memories. As I look back at that Thanksgiving so many years ago and the disaster that it was, it still holds precious memories to me. I can even laugh with my brothers at the events that holiday held and cherish the time spent with my mom and dad, who are no longer with us. Yes, there was a lot of serving, but there was also so much love; and the happiness my heart holds at the time we had together is one that I will treasure forever.
A gift in the gratitude. A gift in the giving. A gift in the guidance. A gift in the getting. A gift in the glorifying. All because of Jesus.
A Thanksgiving gift of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18