Inside: Sharing simple Thanksgiving planning and traditions to keep Christ at the center of your family’s celebration.
The most wonderful celebration of Thanksgiving is almost upon us. As I was sitting and planning the celebration for our family, I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I’ve simplified this celebration for our family while still focusing on Christ and pointing to the goodness and kindness of our good God in redeeming us as His children.
This season of thanksgiving is a reminder to give thanks to the Lord in and through all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I believe that as believers, it is our heart’s desire to keep a right focus. However, I understand that it can be challenging at times. We can easily get caught up in all the details involved in preparing a meal on a larger scale. It is too easy in these times to take our focus off Christ and put it on ourselves. When this happens to me, I may grumble and complain on the inside. I may also become more impatient when unexpected tasks arise, especially when my to-do list is already a bit long.
So, in those moments, I have forgotten all about God. My heart is not thankful, and I’m sinning in my thoughts and attitudes. I may look good on the outside, but I’m a mess on the inside. My thoughts and attitudes are not honoring to the Lord.
I hope to remind us to keep our focus on Christ and do all things as unto the Lord. Let us find great joy in serving and loving others. And that we would live lives that give thanks always to such a merciful and loving and good God.
Listen in to EP 153:
Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:
A Few Favorite Traditions:
Let me begin by expressing that I am someone who enjoys following routines and finds comfort in them. I have discovered that if a particular approach works well for me in planning a holiday celebration, I tend to stick with it and avoid making too many changes. However, if you enjoy introducing variety and adding excitement, stay with me because I hope to spark some ideas and maybe provide some ideas on how to put some of your planning on autopilot.
My initial planning of Thanksgiving involves determining our family’s favorite traditions. What we love both around the table and throughout the month along with identifying favorite parts of the meal we look forward to. It also included putting traditions aside that didn’t work for us anymore, especially after coming to know Jesus.
Since this is a once-a-year big meal, I prefer to stick with the same menu. It helps keep things simple for me, and my family eagerly anticipates it. I don’t believe they would welcome any changes. For instance, if I were to omit the marshmallows from the sweet potatoes and substitute them with pecans, I might face a rebellion. Likewise, you might encounter resistance if you were to remove the pecans and introduce marshmallows instead.
When hosting a meal, it’s important to consider everyone’s preferences. Determine what your family loves and choose those entrees to make or ask others to make if you have friends and family that offer to contribute to the meal. Don’t get so stuck in your traditions that you can’t make any menu changes to accommodate what others might bring to the table. Enjoy it and realize it may become a new favorite every year.
Traditions to Keep it Christ-Focused:
To maintain a focus on Christ during the month of November, there are several activities you can engage in. One suggestion is to have a gratitude jar or notebook in the kitchen or another convenient location where family members can write down something they are thankful for each day. These expressions of gratitude can be shared during dessert or even weekly during family dinner times.
As a family, take time to pray and think about how you can serve others this month. You could consider inviting a family from your church over for Thanksgiving dinner or reaching out to a single friend or widow who might be alone during the holiday season.
Writing a thank you note can be a wonderful activity for you and your children. It allows you to express your appreciation to someone, letting them know that you are praying for them and giving thanks to the Lord for them. This activity is a great way for kids to show gratitude to their family and friends. It can be done any time of the year and is a meaningful gesture of appreciation.
Once you have planned your menu, discuss with your family the activities you can incorporate into the day to keep it Christ-focused. There are simple things you can do, such as going around the table and expressing gratitude to the Lord for the ways you have seen His blessings in your lives. You can also read a Psalm together, pray before the meal, or read a devotional. If you enjoy music, you can sing a hymn and even use Spotify for assistance.
You don’t need to turn this time into a three-hour extravaganza. Begin the meal with prayer and a scripture reading, and keep the focus on giving thanks to the Lord. This is a simple and impactful way to point others to God’s goodness.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to have conversation starter questions ready. We like to include them on the back of place cards at the table, as it keeps the conversation flowing. You can choose questions that keep the focus on the goodness of the Lord. By being intentional in our conversation, we can learn so much about others that we might not have otherwise.
A few favorite questions we like to use are:
- Who is the most grateful person you know?
- What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
- Is there a tradition you would like to be part of our Thanksgiving Celebration?
- What does the term “give thanks” mean to you?
I like to set out books for the season and keep them in a basket for my grandkids. I also include books we might all enjoy as a family, which I place on the coffee table. During this season, I usually read a book that focuses on gratitude to the Lord. Additionally, I have put together a post that includes all our family’s favorite resources to help us celebrate a Christ-focused Thanksgiving.
Witnessing to Family & Friends at the Table:
If we have friends and family around our table who are outside of Christ, this can be such an easy time to lead into a gospel conversation. To share the gospel, we need to be reminded we need to love God more than others. So start now by praying for those who will be with you. One way to share the gospel is to make sure that if you’re sharing your testimony, the gospel presentation is part of it.
So often, we can share our testimony but leave out the gospel – just talking about Jesus or God isn’t sharing the gospel – so if you’re going to go down this road, pray and ponder how to weave the good news of the gospel into it – we never know who the Lord is drawing to Himself. Keep praying for those family and friends – I have a podcast episode on witnessing to our family, and I’ll link it in the show notes.
If we have friends and family who are outside of Christ sitting around our table, it can be a great opportunity to engage in a gospel conversation. Begin by praying for those who will be present with you. When sharing your testimony, it is important to include the gospel presentation. We never know who the Lord is drawing to Himself. Continue to pray for your family and friends.
A Walk Through My Planning:
I’m going to start by sharing my plans for the day. Then, I’ll walk you through our meal and our activities for the day, as well as how I prepare for them. I consider myself a simple cook and don’t like to get too fancy. Cooking a turkey is already an adventure for me.
We serve the same meal each year:
- Turkey (I have ham on hand for my non-turkey people)
- Mashed Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Sauteed Green Beans
- Cranberry Sauce
- Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Pie & Pumpkin Bars
I keep a master grocery list that includes both perishable and non-perishable items. Since the list remains largely the same from year to year, it simplifies the process. I review the list, add any additional items I need, and shop for non-perishables approximately a week in advance and perishables a couple of days before.
Before I go grocery shopping, I always clean my fridge. I usually order my turkey early in the season as well. While writing out the grocery list, I also consider my table setting and make a note to buy fresh flowers along with my perishables. I also make sure to have to-go containers available to pack leftovers for guests to take home. Additionally, I take the time to clean the oven and plan the beverages we’ll be serving. Any dishes that can be prepared a day or two ahead of time, I will do so.
I prefer to set up my table the day before and arrange the devotional materials and any questions or activities we will be doing together. Sticky notes are incredibly helpful for me, as I use them for everything I need to set out, ensuring that I don’t forget anything. They also assist when others are helping me with the setup, as they can easily see where each item should be placed. When placing the sticky notes, I make sure to also set a serving utensil and serving dish next to each of them.
The Close of the Day Before:
The day before, I always end the day with a cup of tea, and I write out my list for the big day. It takes it off my mind when I head to bed, and I know what to do when I wake up the next day.
If you will have music playing in the background, plan it out too.
Before you go to sleep, take the time to pray for the day and everyone who will be at the table with you. Set aside some time on Thanksgiving morning to spend with the Lord before the day begins. As you do your tasks, pray continuously, asking the Lord to give you a thankful heart that loves and serves others, prioritizing their needs above your own.
Asking for help and allowing others to assist you is a blessing for them. It is important to learn how to delegate tasks. I struggle to delegate, so I have started listing items others can help me with. This way, when they ask, I have tasks ready to pass on to them.
When the day is over, and you’ve packed away the last leftovers and washed the final dish – take a moment to sit and reflect. Write down sweet memories – make a note of things you want to change or simplify. Keep these in your planner, or if you picked up my Thanksgiving planner, jot them down in there, and you’ll have them to look back on next year.
The day is over, but it doesn’t mean the season of Thanksgiving is over – we are to always give thanks to the Lord as believers.
I’m so reminded that thankful hearts are not sinful hearts.
A lack of thankfulness reveals the health of our souls. In Ephesians 5:18-20 the apostle Paul tells us what being filled with the Spirit looks like, and he points to thankfulness.
Having the peace of Christ in our hearts comes down to being thankful, Paul tells us again in Colossians 3:15-16.
To live in God’s will, the apostle tells us that it is giving thanks in and through all things in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
There isn’t an easy four-step plan to have thankful hearts in and through all things. We need to encourage one another to be thankful in our homes and churches – I heard it stated: “Thankful people are not only the most spiritually healthy and spiritually protected but very often the happiest.”
It’s a continuing training of our minds to see and give thanks to God’s grace at work in our lives in and through all circumstances. It needs to be a habit formed one moment at a time. The habit strengthens over time. We continue to ask the Lord to help us be people who are thankful and to do battle with ingratitude and, grumbling and complaining.
The more thankful we become in our walk with the Lord, the less power sin will have over us.
Meditate on scriptures that foster gratitude in your heart and remind you to give thanks. Be aware of when and what causes your heart to complain. Complaining, grumbling hearts are sinful hearts, so we need to do battle with sin continually, and we are equipped to do this in Christ -we are not alone, and we can have victory in this area.
What am I most thankful for? Jesus because He truly is enough always. I’m so grateful the Lord opened my eyes to the gift of salvation because it changed my whole world and how we celebrate the day. Everything is now viewed through a different lens. I’m grateful for God’s undeserved mercy and grace bestowed upon me – I pray that I’m reminded of this continually because it causes me to respond in heartfelt, humble gratitude.
I pray in this season, we will be reminded of God’s great love for us and share this love with others. And not just in this season but every moment of our lives. I pray we point others to Jesus and share with them their great need of the gospel. May every day of our lives be one of giving thanks to such a merciful and mighty Savior.
Truly – Jesus is enough always.