It’s Thanksgiving season – a time that extends beyond just one day for me. Until the quiet moments of Thanksgiving Night, November constitutes the Thanksgiving season in my heart. While many adore the holiday for its delicious feasts, my affection for Thanksgiving runs deeper than the menu – although I can’t deny the joy that pecan pie brings me.

Thanksgiving, to me, is loaded with treasured memories. Marked by the annual pilgrimage (see what I did there) to my grandmother’s house, it’s filled with the warmth of extended family. I fondly reminisce about days spent with my aunt, uncle, and cousins and the delightful surprises of last-minute in-laws, friends, and cousins of cousins. Thanksgiving is when everyone across the country desires to be with others, wrapped in cozy sweaters.

Visiting my grandmother’s, a tradition in its own right, unfolded with its set of cherished customs. Raking leaves to create the perennial family picture backdrop destined for our upcoming Christmas Card. The dining room table, adorned with grandmother’s silver and fine china, became the stage for the big meal and laughter. Then, there were the rounds of vintage board games from my mother and uncle’s childhood.

As Thanksgiving night descended, we’d converge to witness the illumination of the Rich’s Macy’s Great Tree. And spread across the living room floor, the kids would circle every enticing item in the JC Penney’s catalog, meticulously crafting elaborate wishlists. These uniquely etched memories radiate warmth through my heart, and I hold them dear. When I reflect on these memories, what truly makes them special is the people I share them with.

It’s the image of my siblings and me, tirelessly raking what seemed like a football field of a front yard until a sympathetic neighbor straps a ginormous leaf blower to my brother’s back. It’s my grandmother, following alongside me, patiently instructing me on the proper placement of each spoon, knife, and fork. It’s my uncle imparting the strategic importance of Australia’s global positioning in winning at Risk or my sister managing the Monopoly bank on the ‘honor’ system for a 7-year-old with questionable math skills.

It’s the shared laughter while flipping through the Penny’s catalog on my aunt’s lap, her gently steering my choices toward more cost-effective selections. At the same time, my mother frantically alerts us to pay attention the moment they start to sing “O, Holy Night” to light the tree. Stripping away all the activities, I am most grateful for the memories of these people. They are the heart and soul of my Thanksgiving memories.

As I age (I know some of you may roll your eyes; I’m not that old…), I am increasingly aware of the tremendous blessing and purpose God has given us in people and our community. The first time God ever declared something “not good” in the world He created was when He saw that man was alone (Genesis 2:18). Before sin and iniquity were ever a thing, there was a fundamental deficiency — the absence of community.

Is community always perfect? By no means! Community comes with risks because it exposes us to people. And, well, people are far from perfect. Community, in many ways, demands vulnerability. There is always the possibility of being let down or disappointed. The reality is that community will inevitably bring moments of hurt, just as we may sometimes hurt those in our community. But at the same time, there is always the possibility that the community will heal us, and we, in turn, can be a part of the healing.

In this Thanksgiving season, as we come together in diverse ways and with different communities, let’s reflect on the risks inherent in our gatherings. By showing up, we expose ourselves to potential hurt and heartache, but we also open the door to healing and joy. Life feels more challenging these days, and our culture has evolved in unfamiliar ways. Too often, people prioritize outrage and offense over patience and forgiveness, sacrificing generosity, hospitality, and kindness on the altar of opinions and righteousness.

Yet, when we gather, we must recognize that showing up is an act of generosity, a courageous step into vulnerability. It’s not taken lightly; there’s a genuine risk involved. However, in embracing this risk, we engage in a profound venture — the possibility of gaining one another. This act of showing up is a gift, and for that, I am grateful.

So, this Thanksgiving, my gratitude extends to those who still choose to show up. To those who, despite the potential for harm, lean into community. For every individual who gathers at the table, acknowledging the personal risk involved, yet still making that choice. I am thankful for those who risk showing up for me, recognizing that I have the capacity to misuse and abuse the gift of their presence, and yet they remain. My heart is full of gratitude for the second chances given by those who reject offense and opt for forgiveness. I thank God for those who embody grace and compassion and come together in community, for it is true, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Missed this past Sunday’s message? Watch Here