5 Ways to Put Jesus First for Thanksgiving
Something that surprises people about me is that I didn't grow up as a Christian. I grew up with a lot of Christian values, but I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus until a bit later on.
Christian holidays became much more meaningful to me later on when I had a personal relationship with Jesus because I felt God's presence and intentionally wanted to design a day that honored Him.
Even though I grew up with the same holidays that I've continued to participate in, I've found a much deeper meaning in the holidays as I've sought to turn my eyes toward what Jesus is doing in our celebrations and traditions.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to express gratitude, but how can we keep Jesus first this thanksgiving?
Here are five ways to put Jesus first for thanksgiving...
Express Gratitude for intangibles
A popular topic that comes up around the thanksgiving table is always, "what are you thankful for?" For Christians and non-Christians alike our natural response is often to begin thanking God for lists of stuff. We are thankful for our house, our car, our new favorite pair of shoes, and the list goes on.
These answers to this question often feel a bit shallow and trite. Instead, answer the question with an intangible and inspire a deeper conversation that points to God. If you aren't in a situation where you can comfortably express gratitude for answered prayers, share about how you're grateful for the sense of peace you felt as you navigated a difficult season or the joy you have despite a hardship in your family. These things point toward God and put Jesus at the center of the conversation instead of the great deal you found at Nordstrom.
Incorporate scripture in your thanksgiving meal to keep Jesus at the center. You can find fun, creative ways to do this like name cards that have scripture on the table, or you can share a scripture to reflect on before sharing the meal together.
If you're one of the only Christians in the room, incorporate scripture simply by trying to share a verse in your own words or a concept from scripture in your conversation. This is a fun task that will make you feel like a secret agent and allow God's Word to enter a room He might not get to enter otherwise.
Give what you've Got
The season of thanksgiving is all about generosity, and God gave generously to us so that we would give generously to others. Look for opportunities to put the generous nature of God on display during your thanksgiving. Maybe it's as simple as talking to someone who looks like they would like to be included, or maybe it's giving your pro chef pie baking skills to your table.
Extend an Invitation
This is undeniably like Jesus. Jesus tore the veil so that everyone is invited. Not just people who are a part of our congregation, or our denomination, or our blood family. He was always opening up the invitation for people to follow Him, and He continually made space for people to be near Him who were marginalized.
Extend an invitation to someone new, or unexpected this year. Ask God to put someone on your heart who is just waiting for an invitation.
Create an Atmosphere of Praise
No matter what kind of atmosphere you enter into on thanksgiving, whether it's a chaotic family meal with lots of distant family members or an intimate and relaxed meal, you have the ability to set the atmosphere.
Create an atmosphere of praise and keep Jesus at the center by honoring Him with your words and conversations and by how you treat the people around you.
One of my favorite analogies is that as Christians we don't read the temperature, but we set the thermostat.
Set the thermostat figuratively at your thanksgiving day by choosing to create an atmosphere of praise.
With those five simple strategies in mind, you'll pay closer attention to the presence of God during your celebration and invite other people to do the same.