Thanksgiving is a mixed plate for me. I long for a full table of loved ones where we laugh for hours over stories while savoring turkey and pumpkin pie.
But reality is not a Hallmark movie. Sorrow sits at our thanksgiving tables too. Broken relationships. Job losses. Grieving loved ones. We sit beside one another with both a longing to be joyful and an aching to be mended.
Wasn’t it the same way for the first Thanksgiving folks?
As the legend goes, the pilgrims left Europe because of religious persecution, faired salty winds and boat-laden sickness, persevered across the Atlantic Ocean, and their ship hit land in Cape Cod.
That was just the beginning.
The first winter many died because of the cold and lack of supplies—so the stories go. Those who survived, worked hard to till, plant, and produce a crop the next year.
And then the feast came with the first harvest. I imagine some feasted in gratitude while still longing for their home in Europe, where the streets were filled with the wafting stew from the local boarding house. I imagine others might have feared how to make a way in this new world.
But they still gave thanks.
And this is the secret sauce to Thanksgiving thankfulness. Surveying the reality of life—the brokenness. The husband that left. The child that died. The bills unmet. And seeing what is around us anyway. The food before us. The roof above us—whatever kind that is. And giving thanks.
Maybe our mini feasts on earth that are mixed with sorrow and ache, can somehow point us to the greater feast that awaits us in the new kingdom when Christ returns. The feast where sorrow and suffering will all be replaced with joy. This view of gratitude with hope—offers us possibility for deep joy in the midst of the suffering in and around us.
Like Paul from Philippians 4, this hope helps me rejoice in all circumstances. Our future hope in the kingdom awaits us, so in Christ we can persevere our own Atlantic Ocean voyages and winter months of loss—and still sit to banquet with thankfulness.
And in this, we rejoice.
I’m not sure what your Thanksgiving plate will look like this year. Whether it will be a paper plate from Walmart in an apartment with a few friends. Or a fine china plate at an estate. Or maybe, across the table from that aunt who never stops asking you when you will finally get a good job—find a man—or have a baby.
But wherever your ship lands on Thanksgiving—even if you sit solo at a local diner. May your plate be filled with the reality that sorrow and joy can co-mingle—they always will until Christ returns and makes all things new. We can look forward to the perfect feast that awaits.