Thanksgiving is almost upon us! Wow. Where does the time go?!
As you think about Thanksgiving, do you:
- Sigh the “Oh, no!” of unpreparedness?
- Smile in anticipation of a gathered family?
- Recoil at the reminder that Thanksgiving is the starting pistol for the chaos of Christmas?
- Salivate at the thought of feasting?
- Look forward to overindulging on football?
Here at Redeemer, the Sunday before Thanksgiving is a special Sunday where we celebrate God’s work and provision. This year, we also celebrate that Church of the Redeemer is 21 years old and we’ve been worshiping here on this property for 16 years.
Bluegrass Sunday is a special ritual here at Church of the Redeemer. We have Bluegrass music, a chili cook-off, and we collect an Offering of Thanksgiving Prayers. It’s fitting that we also respond to God with thankful service; that’s why we receive the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes on this Sunday. He has given us so much, it’s fitting that we give back.
To prepare for the Offering of Thanksgiving, please take some time to reflect on what you want to write down and offer up to God. It’s a sacred moment, so do take some time to reflect on this beforehand. We’ll hand out slips of paper at the beginning of the service with the following questions on them, give you time during the service to write down what you are thankful for, collect them, and give them to God as an offering of worship:
- God and Creator, I’m thankful to you for what you have given me: (i.e., chocolate, coffee, my home etc.).
- God and Savior, I’m thankful that you are/have done: (i.e., try to think about some real specific things you are thankful for this year about his character, nature, and or deeds).
Over the past 25 years in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving has become more and more special to me. The beauty of well-aged rituals is an unexpected and unanticipated blessing of getting older. With the passing of years, rituals take on a deeper and deeper richness. They mature and age like great cheese or fine beverages. I want to share a few in particular with you.
For 18 years, I have engaged in the ritual of frying turkeys in my driveway with friends and neighbors the day before Thanksgiving. Each year, I recount the stories of the times when I’ve sat outside frying turkeys in frostbite conditions in places like Utah and Chicago. Old friends from past turkey fries are remembered and called. There’s something deeply centering about rituals like this in a culture where things change too much and too quickly. Rituals provide a constant, a foundation, an “I know who I am and where I’m from” proclamation in a disembodied and isolating culture.
Also, on this particular Sunday, for the past 11 years at Church of the Redeemer, Deuteronomy 8:1-20 has been our text! It’s also the text I read on Thanksgiving Day to a living room full of family, friends, and International Students and Scholars. Deuteronomy 8 is the biblical precedent for the first Thanksgivings in the United States. As the children of God entered the Promised Land, it was a call to begin a ritual of remembrance and thanksgiving. Along with them, we are called to retell the story of God’s goodness and his provision. We have much to celebrate! Deuteronomy 8 is also a sober and needed warning to not forget. It’s all too easy to forget, be driven by dissatisfaction, and to think that all that we have is the result of our own labor.
Lastly, at Church of the Redeemer, we encourage Thanksgiving to be a time when we invite others, especially those who do not know Christ, into our homes. This tradition arises from both the Biblical and North American Thanksgiving traditions. Many of the first settlers in the U.S. brought with them the ritual of a Fall Harvest Festival: a feast and time of worship to thank and remember God once all the crops had been harvested. Later, in an attempt to unite the States during the Civil War, Lincoln instituted Thanksgiving as a National Holiday in 1863. Since then, Thanksgiving has been tied to a celebration that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. That “first” Thanksgiving highlighted a beautiful and important Thanksgiving message for a divided nation and for us: Thanksgiving is not just about me and my family; it’s also about inviting the alien, the stranger, and people different from us to remember and acknowledge God. Purportedly, the 53 Pilgrims were outnumbered by their 60 Wampanoag Indian guests!
At Church of the Redeemer, we have the opportunity to replicate this type of Thanksgiving in many ways: we can invite those who can’t go home to family to join us; we can invite friends and neighbors into our homes; and we can invite International Students to join us as we celebrate and remember how God has blessed us. If you would like to host some Internationals (or find out more about it), it’s not too late! Click here for the sign up portal.
Lastly, come ready to “Git on down” to some bluegrass worship and stay for some prize-winning chili (there will be prizes and a trophy).
Yours in Christ,