“Gratitude is a great attitude,” my son told me one morning after Sunday school. Yes, gratitude is a great feeling that Christians want to nurture throughout the year. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to name the many ways that God has blessed us. The following suggestions may enable your family to celebrate with gratefulness to God for providing for your needs in the past year. Everyone experiences difficulties and hardships, but God helps us to go forward with hope.
This Thanksgiving, reflect together on families around the world who left their homes to move to another country because of war, economic problems, or instability. Many may not be able to enjoy a meal with family members, reflect together on the year, or have a safe place to live. Yet, they too may be looking at life with gratitude in spite of finding themselves in unfamiliar places, with circumstances they didn’t anticipate, and with people they do not know.
Consider using these activities to observe Thanksgiving at home or with others.
- Many countries have a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest of crops and the food provided by the land that sustains them. Write a list of foods that you enjoy. Give thanks for the earth and the blessings of the world that God has created.
- Create a place tag for each person who will eat the Thanksgiving meal with you. On one side of the tag, write the person’s name. On the other side, write a word or phrase from a verse of Scripture. Ask each person to line up in the order of the verses to determine who will sit by whom during the meal. Say the Scriptures together after all have been seated.
- Identify family members and close friends who are not able to be with you to celebrate. Create or purchase cards for each of them. Invite all who are gathered to sign and/or write a note on the cards. Remember to mail them on the Friday after Thanksgiving!
- Make a blessing bowl. Ask family members to write on slips of paper things for which they are thankful and place the slips of paper in it. Use the blessing bowl as a centerpiece. Pass it around, pull out the slips of paper, and read aloud the blessings.
- Reflect on the past year. Ask each person gathered at your Thanksgiving celebration to share one thing that happened to him or her this year for which he or she is thankful.
- Pray for people who lost a family member this year. Light a candle of remembrance and say aloud the names of family members who are no longer physically present.
- Use this litany of thanks before your Thanksgiving meal:
Reader: We are grateful to be together to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
Reader: Hear these words from the Bible:
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.” (Psalm 24:1-2, NIV*)
Reader: As we light candles, let them remind us of God’s presence with us.
Reader: Let us pray. “Dear God, thank you for all of the blessings that you give to us out of your great kindness and generosity. As we look at the world around us, give us faith to recognize that you are at work in creation and in the lives of people in every nation. Help us to be a blessing today to those who are gathered around this table and in all our days to those we meet at home, at school, in church, and in our community. We pray in your holy name. Amen.”
* Verses marked NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Rosanna Anderson is the Associate Director of Intergenerational Ministries at Discipleship Ministries.