I love Thanksgiving. I always have. I remember growing up that Thanksgiving day was different from any other day of the year. On most Thanksgivings, the air in our neighborhood hung heavy with the smell of roasting turkey coming from almost every house. But roasting turkey wasn’t the only smell.

In our neighborhood, Thanksgiving Day was sort of the last day to burn leaves before winter’s snow started falling. Several of the dads in our neighborhood would come out of their homes early on that morning and rake leaves into piles and burn them. I loved the sounds that Thanksgiving always made: rakes scratching at leaves that burned, and the sounds of conversations, as neighbors leaned on their rakes and talked over backyard fences.

You’ve probably got favorite Thanksgiving memories, too. Times when your mom perhaps made a favorite dish, or fashioned that perfect pumpkin pie, or baked that wonderful bread she usually only made at Thanksgiving. Perhaps, your house was like mine when I was growing up. After all the prepared dishes were on the table, and the gorgeous turkey sat right in the middle waiting to be carved, it was time for everyone to gather around that table, and a prayer of thanksgiving was offered, not only for the meal, but for all the many blessings of God.

When I was a little boy, I was taught a story about pilgrims and Indians, and I was told that the first Thanksgiving was a time when those pilgrims and Indians sat down together to eat. But I’ve come to believe that the first Thanksgiving — the most important giving of thanks that has ever occurred on this earth — was held in an upper room, as Jesus gathered his disciples, and invited them to a meal. Matt. 26:26 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and AFTER GIVING THANKS he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat, this is my body.'”          We don’t know the content of Jesus’ prayer of thanks that he prayed over those men and that bread that he had broken. We only know he gave thanks, not in a moment of triumph or joy; rather, his prayer was in the shadow betrayal, and agony, and death. I wonder how it felt for the man — the perfect, sinless man, Jesus — to hold that unbroken bread in his hands and offer that prayer of thanksgiving.  And then, break that bread, and pass it along to his disciples. When he broke it, he knew full well that it was a foreshadowing of the brokenness he would be experiencing in only a few hours.

Heb. 12:2 says that ‘for the joy set before him’ he endured the cross, despising the shame.” I don’t think I’ve ever connected that ‘joy that was set before him’ with how grateful he was, that evening as he gathered with those twelve men — one of them who would soon betray him. Holding that bread in his hands giving thanks’ before it was broken.

Quite a picture, in my mind: Jesus, the soon-to-be-broken, Bread of Life joyfully giving thanks for that breaking, that bread, that …Life.

2 thoughts on “Thankfulness

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