Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)
For many of us, Thanksgiving Day holds more traditions than the rest of the year combined. From the Macy’s Day Parade to the pumpkin pie, the day is steeped in long-standing, deeply rooted traditions.
In our house, we start with a run to the nearest gas station for three newspapers. Our local paper prints a full-page turkey for kids to color, so three kids who can color (my newborn isn’t there yet) = three papers. I grew up coloring that newspaper turkey with my own siblings, and now my kids spend their first hours of Thanksgiving doing the same. While they color, I read the rest of the newspaper and separate out the ads I want to look at after dinner. We turn the parade on TV, and then we start cooking.
Whether we host or visit someone else’s home on Thanksgiving, I cook as much as possible that day. I love preparing Thanksgiving foods! The planning (which I usually begin in August) and prepping, shopping and chopping, whisking and basting . . . I love it all. There are traditions behind the dishes we prepare on Thanksgiving, of course. Mashed potatoes and made-from-scratch gravy are a must, because it’s how Grandma did it. A roasted turkey, recipe perfected and carried out annually by my husband. Both homemade and canned cranberry sauces, because each of us likes a little of both. Green beans in some form have to grace the table. And of course we need pie — pumpkin, pecan, and cranberry are our usual dessert fare.
While I cook, my family cleans their bedrooms and vacuums the house, getting it ready for the next day (that’s when we’ll set up our tree and start decorating for Christmas!). We watch whatever football game is on, and after that we switch to the DVD player and put in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. We may go over the river and through the woods to visit relatives, or they may come to our house; either way, we usually get together with family. That looks different this year as we are still physically distancing, carefully considering and weighing risks for ourselves and others. This year at our table there will be more empty chairs and more video calls, less physical presence and more longing for “normal.” This leaves the taste of bittersweet in my mouth, and I’m finding balm in holding my beloved traditions even closer.
Traditions can keep us close even when our gatherings or hearts are far apart.
We can make the same sweet potatoes we had as kids. We can play football or take a walk after Thanksgiving dinner like we usually do with our siblings or cousins. We can color the newspaper turkey. We can set the table as always, and we can give thanks.
We can lean on the things that have remained over the years; in fact, it’s important that we do.
Creator of the Four Keys for Practicing Faith, my friend Rev. Dr. David Anderson defines these vital practices as Rituals and Traditions, and he says they are “symbolic actions grounded in the Christian tradition throughout the year, providing a beautiful and holistic way of experiencing the grace of God.” I love his definition because it validates the value found in incorporating and recognizing traditions in our holidays (and regular days, too!). It also gives weight to the feelings that accompany traditions when they’re present, and when those traditions are missing.
I think Jesus has a soft spot for rituals and traditions because He understands how grounding they are to us, His children. He has let us know that He Himself is unchanging, a constant presence on which we can rely. Yesterday, today, and forever – no matter what, Jesus is the same.
He is our greatest tradition.
Lord, I am grateful for the blessings You lavish. For the big ones – family, friends, food, and shelter – and the glory found in the small things as well. Thank You for a day focused on giving thanks. May my life become one of traditions and thankful days. Amen.
Why is it so comforting to know that Jesus never changes?
This devotion first appeared in Pumpkin Spice for Your Soul: 25 Devotions for Autumn by Anna Rendell.
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