For many Thanksgivings in my early childhood the routine was the same: wake up in Rock Hill, enjoy the Thanksgiving Day parade in Charlotte, ride 3 hours east, and join family at the already-in-progress gathering. In my teenage years, we stopped attending the parade, which meant getting to my grandfather’s home earlier, which meant more time for playing (and watching) football, picking up pecans, and feasting with family. In recent years, we’ve shifted our gatherings back to Charlotte, enjoying time with Sally’s side of the family first, then my side in the evening.
The locations have changed, some of the activities are different, people we used to share Thanksgiving with are no longer among us and others have new traditions in their lives, and some new people are now part of our gatherings. There have two consistencies throughout my Thanksgivings: food and family.
I imagine that most of you would have different places and some different activities in your Thanksgiving memories, but food and family would be part of your traditions, too. Those are probably why Thanksgiving ranks among our most popular days and why it’s an especially lonely time for those who aren’t with loved ones today.
If you are with loved ones, give thanks, even if there are some frustrating moments today. If you aren’t, know that you’re not alone. In fact, whether you are with loved ones or not today, you are not alone.
One of the most important Biblical messages God sends is that we are not alone. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 2-3), walks with us through dark valleys (Psalm 23 and Psalm 139), and already does and eternally will make his home among us (John 14:15-26 and Revelation 21:1-5).
There are more reasons today to give thanks than you or I can name, but at the top of the list, wherever we are and whoever we’re with, must be Emmanuel – God is with us!