Yesterday at SVC, we had a holy moment.
I began the sermon by having people look to their neighbor and say two things:
1) "Happy Thanksgiving."
2) "Next time you see me I will be 7 pounds heavier."
"Thanksgiving is great," I continued.
"We enjoy fellowship with our relatives...we eat until we can't eat anymore...we confine ourselves to the living room where we lie on couches for the rest of the afternoon and we join in one of the greatest spiritual experiences of the holiday season--we watch America's team, or more importantly, God's team, play a few hours of football."
However, if you are like me, there will be moments of grief this holiday season. This is the first holiday season without my grandfather. For some people, it will be their first holiday season without a dad, mom, sister, brother, a son or daughter, or a close relative or friend.
Maybe it is the first holiday season, or another holiday season, as one who has suffered from a broken marriage.
Maybe it is the first holiday season, or another holiday season, without the presence of a relative because they are fighting a war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or they are stationed somewhere else throughout the world.
The truth is that there are certain people that we do not know life without them. And there absence stings.
For those who would be experiencing moments of sadness or grief during the Thanksgiving week, I had them stand. And then, we surrounded them, and we laid hands on them, and I prayed this prayer:
Lord, we come surrounding those we love as a testament to them that they are not alone, and that we choose to enter into their pain and grief this week. We are taught in Scripture that when a member rejoices, we all rejoice; and when a member mourns, we all mourn. In our grief contain and comfort us. Embrace us with your love, and give us hope in our confusion. As Jesus ascended into the heavens he spoke these words, "I am with you always." Let these words come to fruition this week in ways that are evident so that people may be fully aware of your abiding, constant presence.
(And the we all joined in praying these words together)
We turn to you, O God;
We claim your love;
We choose to be made whole.
Here's the point:
Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks.
And on Sunday's around Thanksgiving, many churches focus on gratitude...which is good.
However, there are people who experience moments of grief and mourning during holiday seasons like Thanksgiving, and often we (the church) do not give them a voice.
Even for those who are mourning and grieving, is there something in their life to be grateful for? Absolutely!
But while giving thanks, is it okay to mourn and grieve? Absolutely!
May this Thanksgiving season be full of the presence of power of a God who abides with his people.