Celebrating with gratitude—at home
"An attitude of gratitude" – that's what we seek to instill in ourselves and in our family members. Thanksgiving lends itself to helping us name the many ways we are blessed.
Stopping to identify blessings doesn't mean that life has been easy in the past year. Everyone experiences difficulties and hardships. We can't ignore the fact that hardships are part of life.
This Thanksgiving, reflect together on families all around the world who have left their homes to move to other countries because of war, because of economic issues or because of instability in their home countries. Many may not have the opportunities to enjoy a meal with family members, to reflect together on the year or to have a safe place to live. Yet, they too may be looking at life with an "attitude of gratitude," despite finding themselves in new places, with circumstances they didn't anticipate and with people they do not know.
This year, consider using one or more of the following suggestions when you observe Thanksgiving in your home or with others. Use these suggestions to enable your family to focus not just on being thankful for the food of the day, but also on true gratefulness for the many blessings experienced throughout the year.
- Many countries have a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest of crops and the food provided by the land that sustains us. Create a list of the foods you enjoy. Give thanks for the earth and the blessings of the world that God has created.
- Create a place tag for every person who will share the Thanksgiving meal in your home. On one side of the tag, write the name of the person. On the other side, place a word or phrase from a verse of scripture. Ask everyone to line up so the words from the verse are in the correct order. This determines who sits by whom during the meal. Say the scripture together after everyone has been seated.
- Identify family members and close friends of your family who will not be able to be with you at Thanksgiving. Create or purchase cards for each of these people. On Thanksgiving Day, invite all who are gathered in your home to sign and/or write a note on the cards to those who are missing. Don't forget to mail the cards on the Friday following Thanksgiving!
- Make a blessing box. Ask different family members to write on slips of paper things for which they are thankful and to place the slips of paper in the blessing box. Use the box as a centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. Pass around the box, pull out the slips of paper and read the blessings.
- Reflect on the past year. Ask each person gathered at your Thanksgiving celebration to share one thing that happened to him or her during the past year for which he or she is thankful.
- Take a photograph of all who are gathered with you to celebrate Thanksgiving. Label it "Thanksgiving 2017" and list on the back the names of all who are there and one thing each person is thankful for this year.
- Pray for those who have lost family members during the last year. Light a candle of remembrance and call out the names of those in the family who are no longer physically present.
- Use the following as a litany of thanks prior to your Thanksgiving meal:
Reader 1: Today is Thanksgiving Day. We are grateful to be together at this time of the year.
Reader 2: Hear these words from the Bible: "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters." (Psalm 24:1-2, NIV)
Reader 3: As we light the candles on this table, let them be a reminder to us of God's presence with us.
Reader 4: Let us pray:
All: O God for all the blessings we enjoy, we give you thanks. Help us look at the world around us in such a way that we see your hand in creation and in those we meet. Help us be a blessing today to those gathered around this table and in all our days to those we meet at home, at school, in church, and in our community. Amen.
The Rev. MaryJane Pierce Norton is retired from the staff of Discipleship Ministries. This article is updated and reprinted with permission from the Discipleship Ministries website.