A heavy wood table is lifted by four strong hands from the dirt covered floor wherein it has rested. Two men struggle to carry the cumbersome furniture to a more open space where the festivities will be commenced. Two men from two groups of people, originally from two different continents now stand separated only by the wood of a table. The celebration will be one of communal unity. The hands of men and women, English and Native American, will all eat of the same food, reach for the same bowls, and sit at the same table. The juxtaposition must have been interesting, and one that no doubt many would love to have had the chance to watch. Different cultural norms, different religions, different clothes, and different foods all were unified at a simple table.
The cold air that lingered, attempting to join in on the party was quickly ushered away by a blazing fire a short distance away. Smiles and no doubt incommodious conversations, driven by a lack of linguistic commonality, filled the scene. Two groups of people were united at a table 394 years ago to celebrate one simple idea: Thanksgiving.
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Rewinding the scene back hundreds of years before the famous meal, we find ourselves standing in front of the tomb of a dead man, Lazarus. By this point, he has been dead four days. The family as already attended to his body and conducted the ritual burial process, all with no sight of their friend, Jesus. The miracle worker, the healer whom they know could have healed Lazarus never showed. Why did he never come? No doubt, the question plagued the minds of Mary and Martha each night as they attempted to fall asleep. They knew Jesus had the power to perform miracles. There was no question, if Jesus only would have come Lazarus would be alive. However, instead of resting each night in the family’s home, his body peacefully rested in a tomb. A tomb enclosed by death. Sickness and disease, those are difficult miracles to conduct, but death, nobody walks away from death.
Jesus stands before a tomb, sealed in stone but locked by death. It is a door that he has the authority to open, but one that he has not yet captured the key. His first words are often forgotten by those who examine the story, “So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me’” (John 11:41, English Standard Version). Jesus stood, looking death in the face, a mere moment before commanding life to come forth and prayed a prayer of Thanksgiving, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”
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We find ourselves at the precipitous of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is just days away; Christmas music is itching to be cued. Firewood is stacking up, soon to gently puff from chimneys that dot the suburban landscape. Tables are to be laden with food; walls will echo with laugher and eventually will hang those captured memories. The holiday season, it’s truly a wonderful time of year. Before we dive headfirst into the joyous festivities, allow me to remind you, Thanksgiving is not an event, it is a lifestyle.
The famous story of Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to share a meal is etched into the narrative history of Thanksgiving. However, what is often forgetten during those stories is the fact that over half of the English Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower had died before Thanksgiving was commenced. The memory of lost family and loved ones was still fresh in the minds of those early American settlers. Somehow they still found room in their faith to set a table for Thanksgiving. Their celebration still teaches us that it is possible to be thankful when life is not perfect.
The correlation between Jesus looking the tomb of Lazarus in the eye and a meal shared by Pilgrims and Native Americans is the same point that brought the two groups together in the first place: Thanksgiving. A prayer of thanks left the lips of Jesus and ascended toward heaven, right before Lazarus ascended from the tomb. Thanksgiving is often the birthplace of the miraculous.
So we arrive, finally, at the point of this discussion: cognizance. As we walk into the holiday season; as you sit at your table to feast on your Thanksgiving dinner, possibly getting frustrated at the family. Allow a mental, purposeful thought process to weave in and out of those moments. Thanksgiving is more than a meal, and it reaches far beyond a single day. It is a lifestyle, a mentality, a thought-process that you can live in, day in and day out. God has blessed each of us so abundantly. Be thankful for your table, your kitchen, your heat and air, your car and food. Be thankful for your family and thankful for your friends. My action point is to simply urge you to walk through the holidays purposefully, methodically in a mindset of Thanksgiving. Because Thanksgiving is a conduit in which God will use to impact your life.
When was the last time you truly told God how thankful you are that you could simply talk to Him? When was the last time you thanked God for your home, food, family, friends…? When was the last time you prayed not to ask for something but to thank God for what you have?
I urge you to do that today.