Centering Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Jamar Doyle
Jamar Doyle

It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is here, and Thanksgiving is just over a week away. Many folks are already preparing for their Thanksgiving meals, eager to resume family traditions put on hold over the past two years. In this season of family gatherings, I was recently asked to reflect on “What does God/Spirit/the world need for our gatherings to be meaningful?” As I thought about this question, the Spirit led me to Luke 10:38-42 where we find an account of the intimate gathering Jesus and his disciples experienced at the home of Mary and Martha.

Many of us know the story of Jesus and his disciples stopping by the house of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at Jesus’s feet while he taught, listening intently, while Martha worked frantically to prepare and serve a meal for everyone. Frustrated, Martha scolded Jesus, asking him whether he cared that her sister had left her to fix the meal alone. She told Jesus to order Mary to help her with the preparations. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or, indeed, only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV).

Much like Martha, during this time of year we can get so distracted by the preparation for our Thanksgiving gatherings — the food, the shopping, the decorations, the details, the noise — that we can easily lose focus on the true spirit of the holiday, a day set aside for us to stop the noise and consider all we are thankful for. Thanksgiving is a day that reminds us of the importance of gratitude in our lives. And on Thanksgiving, while we often gather with family and friends, the blessings of thankfulness and gratitude are intimate and personal — they are for us as individuals. In the guided journal, Moments of Gratitude, Kristin Eade and Miriam Hathaway remind us that gratitude shields us against self-centeredness, which can result in despair and loneliness. Gratitude invites us to shift our focus outward, to acknowledge the things great and small in our lives that bring us joy, peace, happiness, and yes, even the pain, sorrow, and disappointment that God uses to strengthen us.

So, as we rejoice in the ability to gather again this Thanksgiving, don’t simply return to old habits and traditions. Between the second helpings, football games, and Black Friday strategizing, why not have some time for reflection on who and what you are thankful for and why, and how you will share that gratitude with others? Let those who are comfortable doing so share their gratitude ideas with everyone. Perhaps from this sharing, a new tradition of gratitude and giving will emerge. Shift your gathering to one focused on gratitude and giving. You will get love and gratitude in return for giving.

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