My grandma’s kitchen was small. It was long, and so narrow that if someone was working in the kitchen, it would have been nearly impossible for another person to squeeze through. My grandma did not have a dishwasher. She had a deep, two-basin porcelain sink where she would stand and do dishes by hand as she cleaned up after the meals she made. She had almost no counter space, and she had a little cutting board that pulled out from under the counter top for making things like homemade noodles. The kitchen wasn’t open concept, and the sink was situated so that you could see out the back door into the yard when you washed dishes. Grandma’s dining area was small. She had a table that could seat 6-8 people, but if every chair was filled, you couldn’t get out of the dining room without asking someone to move their chair. The home was humble, but warm; quiet, but inviting. And I loved being there. The amazing thing was that every Thanksgiving, everyone in our extended family would come over, around 14 of us most years, and we would stay all day. We found places to put the kids’ table, and anyone was welcome.
My grandma didn’t ask for help, and she made everything look effortless. She would wake up very early in the morning to start the turkey and bake the homemade rolls. Everything was made from scratch, and nothing had to be made the day before. The table was so full of food – and red Kool-Aid in a green pitcher – that there was hardly a place to put the plates and silverware, and everyone ate until they were full. There was enough leftover that we would all eat it again later in the day. And as soon as the meal was finished, we would clear off the table and I would sit with my great aunt, and whoever else wanted to join in, and work on a puzzle that would take us all day to finish. As a kid, I was always amazed by the huge spread of food. My grandma would make an extra dozen homemade rolls so that I had extra since they were my favorite. Thanksgiving was a day where all my favorite foods were spread out before me, and as someone who really loves to eat, it was one of my very favorite days of the entire year.
This Thanksgiving, my parents are planning to come to my house. As I have fretted and planned and made lists in preparation for making and serving the big meal, I have come to realize that what I really loved about Thanksgiving wasn’t the big spread of food, even though that was wonderful too. It was about time with family, and it was about the host. Everyone who walked through the door of my grandma and grandpa’s house was welcomed as part of the family. Everyone who sat around the table was lavished with love and hospitality. Everyone belonged. And that’s how it is with our host – Jesus. In Luke 24, after the resurrection, Jesus sat as the host at the table. He took bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. The Bible tells us that when Jesus did this, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” As he hosted them, the people knew him. As he served them, they knew who he was, that they were loved, welcomed, and part of the family. Everyone who comes to the Lord’s Table is welcomed. Everyone is loved. Everyone is part of the family. It isn’t about the bread on the table, and it isn’t about the cup, but it is about the one who welcomes, invites, and loves.
This Thanksgiving, whether you celebrate with a big meal, by going somewhere for a buffet or take-out, or even as you go through the day like you normally would, be sure to place on your table all your blessings and thankfulness. Surround yourself with the overflowing blessings. Fill your table so full of thankfulness that there is hardly room for you to sit. Allow your heart to take it all in until it is overflowing, and all you can do is sit back, put up your feet, and feel the awe and thankfulness of being loved by the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It’s not about the food we make, the traditions we keep, the hustle and the bustle, or the way we set the table, even though all of those things will be part of the memories we cherish throughout our lives. It’s not about the spread; it’s about the host, the one who loves us so much that he gives us even himself. As we heap high the things we place on the table, let us also heap high our praise and thanksgiving of the most generous One of all. In closing, I wanted to share with you a wonderful Thanksgiving poem.
Heap high the board with plenteous cheer
Heap high the board with plenteous cheer,
And gather to the feast,
And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band
Whose courage never ceased.
Give praise to that All-Gracious One
By whom their steps were led,
And thanks unto the harvest’s Lord
Who sends our daily bread
Alice Williams Brotherton