Thanksgiving memories


Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash

I’m surprised that I really don’t have a lot of Thanksgiving memories. I really like the holiday, especially preparing and consuming the food. I had to really work to come up with memorable moments from the past.

In high school, the last football game of the season was played on Thanksgiving morning, also marking the end of marching band season. We always played a non-league game against Interboro, a tough opponent from a few towns away. After graduating, that was the game you attended to catch up with all your friends who were home for break.

The only time in my life I remember going out for supper on Thanksgiving was when we went to visit my wife’s Aunt Dot who lived in King of Prussia, just outside of Philadelphia. I’m pretty sure we drove down from Connecticut that year and met my in-laws there. My daughter Katie found it hysterical that her name was “dot.” We went to the mall, the largest in the area at that time, the next day to people watch more than shop.

My Thanksgivings while I was attending seminary were spent at my in-laws home in Columbus, IN. The first time I had just finished Greek and went with my classmate, dorm-mate and future brother-in-law Jeff, who, if I remember correctly, had a pretty nice looking sister who was in her last year at Indiana University. A year later I got to return, now dating his sister but not yet engaged. I think that is when I wrote my first poem for her. (I am sure she has it somewhere.) I don’t remember going there when I was in my final year, but I’m sure we did. Lisa would have been about six months pregnant with Adam that year.

Last year was supposed to be Thanksgiving at our house, but we had a change of plans. With Isaac (grandchild #3) only six weeks old, we decided to take a drive to Dallas to spend thanksgiving with him and his family. The year before I had decided to have our Thanksgiving worship the Sunday before, freeing up the week for travel, and it paid off. After worship on Sunday, we hit the road, spent the night in Pensacola, and arrived in Dallas on Monday night. Three solid days in Dallas, got to hear my son preach and did lots of grandparent stuff.

I do remember that Thanksgiving worship was on Thanksgiving Day when we were in Urbandale, Iowa. Ugh. Never did that before. It was always the night before in Ridley Park, Connecticut and Florida. But I wasn’t the boss, so it was what it was.

I remember all my trumpet descants for the Thanksgiving hymns, too. I may not be playing them, but I sing ’em on the last verse. Still got that tenor range.

OK, I guess I did have a few memories. One of these days, I’ll look at my journals — I’ve got decades of them. That ought to stimulate my memory.

It’s over…for now

The party is over, kind of. My two oldest children have gone back to school and our home is suddenly a little emptier and much quieter. The last few days have been a blast with the five of us home. Twice as much conversation, food, games, mess, and laughter.

I know that everyone will be back again in just a few weeks, for Christmas, but when you all don’t get together too often, you take in and enjoy every minute you can.
Here are my favorite memories of this Thanksgiving:

  • Adam leading worship with me on Sunday and Wednesday.
  • Adam’s turkey made of olives and pickles, Katie’s pumpkin bread and green bean casserole, Lisa’s pumpkin pie, and Olivia’s mashed potatoes.Little ones hanging on the altar rail trying to see Pastor Bill.
  • Bike rides on two beautiful days.
  • Two posters filled with sticky “thank-you” notes.
  • The image of Jesus giving thanks right along side us.

As we head full steam ahead into Advent, these memories will quickly fade, so I’m glad I jotted them down here to remember.

We gather together…

We had our usual Thanksgiving Eve worship at church today. Actually two times today, once at noon for those who don’t drive at night, and then again in the evening. Each year, the attendance goes down. In the evening, half of those who came were the choir. A quarter were small children (pre-schoolers), which made me think maybe we could try something different.

I like having some kind of Thanksgiving worship, but wonder what we could do that was a little more interactive, a little more family-oriented, a little less formal, and perhaps a little more attractive. I think it’s important to have something, a time to give thanks together, but I’m not sure what it should look like.

I’m going to research some alternative types of worship, activities, gatherings, something different than the usual I grew up with. Maybe wii-thanksgiving.  Some interactive thing we make to take home with us. Something we can share with each other. I’m certain I can find something.

How do we learn thankfulness?

I meet with our preschool’s students each Wednesday morning. I love the chance to interact with a room full of three, four and five year olds who have such a great way of seeing the world and who teach me a lot about God and faith.

Each November, in preparation for Thanksgiving, we sing a song about how much we have to be thankful for, including Jesus. Now even though most preschoolers know how to say thank you, how do you teach them what gratitude is? How do we learn to be thankful?

I start out by having them share things they have that they like a lot. This would include everything from toys and pets to friends and families. We’ve already talked about how everything we have is from God, who made everything. So then we connect the two. You say, “Thank you, God, for my toys.” Or parents. Or bugs. Or whatever. At some level, I think they get it, perhaps even better than we do.

In time we also learn to take things for granted. Until Thanksgiving comes along and stimulates our gratitude glands and we humbly remember our dependence on God and his grace. At least that’s what happens with me. But I get an earlier nudge since I teach the kids about Thanksgiving and they help me see the God who deserves our thanks and praise.

Initial Thanksgiving thoughts

Our congregation traditionally has a Thanksgiving Eve service each year. Thinking about my sermon for that service, I thought about Jesus giving thanks at the last supper. When else did Jesus give thanks?  When he fed the 5,000, when he thanked his father for hearing him before he raised Lazarus from the tomb, and when he thanked his father that some spiritual truths were hidden from the wise and revealed to little ones.

Preaching on thanksgiving isn’t always easy. Those who come to worship are thankful and generous people. I don’t have to remind them to give thanks. We do it all the time. But we don’t always get to do it together, and that’s what makes it special.

A gathering of family and friends, a meal, and a word of thanks. On TV, it’s heartfelt and sentimental. With Jesus, it’s sacramental and sacrificial.  Most of our thanksgivings could use a little depth. Perhaps this is a way to accomplish that. I’m not exactly sure where I’ll go with this, but I find it personally very interesting.

We usually think of Jesus as the one we thank. Sometimes he’s the one doing the thanking. I can even hear him saying, “Thanks,” to a disciple who handed him some food or got him a drink. When the Son of God is thankful for something, we should pay attention.