Thanksgiving as a Christian Discipline

by Alexei Laushkin

Thanksgiving around a common table.

There are very few moments in American culture where we gather around a common table and spend time with family near and far. Spend time with those we are close to and those we aren’t close to. Time with those we love and those we do not love naturally.

It’s an incarnate moment of Psalm 23:5:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

Thanksgiving often brings the juxtaposition of peace and reconciliation in the midst of ongoing brokenness in the life of any family. Thanksgiving puts relationships into sharp focus in a culture that doesn’t do relational intimacy very well.

Christians instituted days of Thanksgiving for times of great deliverance. Sometimes in the midst of God helping to save the people from a strong enemy, sometimes at the end of a long famine or a wasting disease, days of thanks were offered. In our own lands, days of Thanksgiving were held at the local and state level until it became a national and fixed day.

A Moment to Commit to Peace 

Here’s some tools to help with that common meal.

Liturgically for western Christians, Thanksgiving comes at the end of the Christian year, with Advent, the start of the Christian year, just around the corner. Thus Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to give thanks in a decidedly Christian way, with the fruits of repentance, peace, and reconciliation.

This gives a natural moment of pause to think about the relationships around your common table and to reflect on how they have gone. You can ask yourself:

  • What has marked the relational dynamic between each family member and yourself around your table. Has kindness, love, patience, self-control?
  • Have things occurred relationally which are in need of reconciliation or repentance, have unmet hopes and desires been an aspect of the relating?
  • Scripture has such a focus on helping family in need, are there family members around your table that are in need are there family conversations that should take place to address that need?

Ask the Lord to speak into these relationships and take a moment to make a new commitment between you and God on what you will pursue in the Christian year ahead with this particular family member.

Thanksgiving can seem like such a rushed and hurried holiday, but with focus and reflection it can be just the perfect time to reflect and re-commit to pursuing peace where it can often matter most, at home, among those who have known you for many years and where the relationships are often the most complex.

The hymn by John Fawcett, ‘Blest be the Tie That Bind’ comes to mind as an orientation or a prayer. Especially these lines:

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.

 

The fellowship of kindred minds reflects the Trinity above. Not every Christian gathers in a Christian household, but in as much as we take on the attributes of Christ and seek peace with all men, as much as it depends on ourselves, we too can share in that blessed fellowship of the Trinity above. Where peace without ceasing reigns.

Thanksgiving offers each of us an invitation to commit to kind and peaceable relating with many kinds of people. Let’s take up this focus with diligence and take a moment to offer Christian thanks through the fruits of reconciliation and peace.

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