With the holidays right around the corner I find myself thinking about celebrations and how in my experience it is so easy to make it through the entire holiday season without ever really celebrating anything. I have many memories of Thanksgivings where the day was more about going through the motions than about truly celebrating anything. I think about the traditions and values of our culture and they all seem to be centered around food and material objects and seem to overlook the beauty of true celebration. The dictionary definition of celebrate is “to observe a day or event with ceremonies of respect, festivity, or rejoicing.” A second definition says, “To extol or to praise.” So, according to the dictionary the meaning of the word celebrate is to rejoice. To honor the day with festivity. To praise, which, of course, means worshiping and adoring God and admiring His goodness that is all around us each and every day. Celebrate does not mean spending the morning in the kitchen cooking up a storm, and then the evening in front of a sink full of dishes with little more than football games and a lovely meal in between. Yet, many of my more recent Thanksgiving holidays have been just that. This year I find myself yearning to celebrate. To delight in the blessings the Lord has given me over the last year. To fill the day with festivity and rejoicing and not just enjoying a nice meal and then packing up the leftovers with little thought as to what it is all about. In America, it is so easy to take things for granted. A nice, hot meal is not a luxury or a treat but an everyday occurrence. A day of relaxation with time to watch television all afternoon is commonplace, really. Maybe that is why, even on holidays, things don’t always feel very festive. Things don’t seem very different. The day isn’t necessarily joyful. This year I want to really celebrate my gratitude. I want to rejoice and delight in God’s love in my life and the blessing of my family and friends.
The very first Thanksgiving was a true celebration. A day, a few days actually, of games, dancing, feasts, and visiting. A time of prayer and praise and joy. Celebration itself makes us thankful. Rejoicing fills our hearts with gratitude and helps us to really see God’s goodness around us. Celebration opens our hearts to share with others all that we have and makes us happy and peaceful and grace-filled. The first Pilgrims and their Indian friends knew that. They understood real celebration and their day of Thanksgiving flowed from hearts that were bursting with gratitude, joy, and praise. Rather than be complacent and just “go through the motions” this Thanksgiving, I want my heart to burst with gratitude, joy, and praise as well. I want to dance with my children, kiss my husband, savor each bite of our feast, and shout with joy in my heart to God that I do see all that He has done and it is good. I pray that you, too, will be celebrating with your loved ones and that your heart will be filled to overflowing with love and gratitude like mine.