As a child and youth, I remember the tradition of our annual high school football game against our arch-rivals. Those of us in the marching band would sit shivering in the stands, holding our freezing brass instruments and drums, intermittently playing fight songs and passing around hot cocoa, wishing half time would hurry up and get here so we could get out on the field and move around to warm up a little!
And most years, after the football game was over, we would travel to my grandparents house for the traditional meal of turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted on top, and about every flavor of pie you could ever imagine. With aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents crowded around the table, we siblings and cousins were relegated to the folding tables in the living room to stuff ourselves silly. Above it all were loud voices and joyful belly laughs. And today I wish for one more gathering like that, but its not possible, because of distance, and because so many of those beloved people are no longer living.
Thanksgiving hasn't always been this way for me. Some years have been gathered with people from multiple countries and cultures. Some years have been quiet and alone, reflective times, and some have been with friends who are like family, very similar to the boisterous gatherings of my childhood.
Regardless of what your Thanksgiving gathering looks like this year, I encourage you to find a few moments, on your own, or as a group story-telling event, to remember those celebrations from years gone by. What was memorable? (What do you wish was NOT memorable!?) What did you love? What do you long for and miss?
And then, after remembering, give thanks to God. For the good, the bad, the boisterous and the quiet. For the love, the laughter, the joy, and the anger, and yelling, and sadness. Through it all, God has been with us, and God WILL be with us, “never leaving us nor forsaking us.”
In good times and bad, in sickness and health, in our wealth and in our poverty, God is with us. In Hebrew, Emmanuel, God with us. That is the blessing of this Thanksgiving season as we prepare our hearts for Advent. God IS with us. Thanks be to God. Amen.