Scripture: Hebrews 13: 1-2; Matthew 25: 34-40; Luke 14: 12-14;
Even though Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday (Think all the food preparation, all the guests, all the clean-up!), I have never-the-less had some memorable ones, even with all the food, guests and clean-up!
I think way back to my childhood in Minnesota and going to my beloved Grammy’s on the farm and eating her meal cooked entirely on the wood burning stove. And more importantly than the food was just being there – warming up by the stove in the morning (after sleeping the night in an unheated bedroom); feeding – and then catching – the cats in the barn; my Grammy’s frequent hugs; and even the adventure of using the outhouse. Good memories!!
Another memorable Thanksgiving occurred in 1973 in West Virginia. I had moved to West Virginia, along with many other back-to-the-landers, wanting to live simply on small acreage. A vibrant community developed where we helped each other out and celebrated the good times together. One Thanksgiving, when my twins were 8 mo old, we were invited to friends two hours away. So off we drove – two adults and two babies – in our VW bug. But not too far from our destination we stopped and added 3 more adults and 3 more children to the car, plus all the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner! And then we proceeded up a VERY bumpy back holler road for a mile to our final destination. Good times!!
But the most memorable Thanksgiving I ever experienced was one I was not present at. I guess I’d better explain! Our family had been invited to our pastor’s house for Thanksgiving, along with some others – about eleven people altogether. I was working Thanksgiving Day – and secretly glad to be missing all the commotion plus earning double-time holiday pay. But it was not to be an ordinary meal that I missed! My husband spent the morning in town looking up Hispanic friends from Mexico who were working in a Chinese restaurant. And when he found out they had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, he asked our pastor (who asked his wife) if these seven, barely English speaking men could come to their house for dinner. And his wife immediately said “Of course!” So they moved things around and set up extra card tables to make one long table extending into their living room.
Now when I first heard about this, I was relieved that I wasn’t the person who had to decide. Not being exactly the “hostess-with-the-most-est”, saying either yes or no would have left me with feelings of anger and resentment at my husband for putting me in an impossible situation. So at first, I was glad I was not there.
But as I heard the stories of that day, and the joy and fun that people had had and of all the sharing that had gone on despite language differences, I realized that I had missed something very special and began to wish I had been there.
Just perhaps – that day – people were entertaining angels unaware. Or maybe – by reaching out to some “of the least of these” - Jesus was really present. And I had missed out.
Lord, help me to more easily say “yes” to things that sound too messy or too hard. Help me open my heart to people that may feel too messy or too hard. And help me to always remember: “...freely you have received; so freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)
-- Lyn Fitz