Thanksgiving is by far my most favorite of all the holidays. I fly home to Texas every year I can manage for Thanksgiving because there is no one I want to be with more than my family and enjoying our traditions. From enjoying cinnamon rolls while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade where my very musical family delights in every Broadway show and missed lip-syncing cues by musical artists on floats, to watching every football game and enjoying an afternoon nap, to mom and dad performing the perfected dance of making Thanksgiving dinner, to washing copious amounts of dishes with my two siblings, and ending with playing a game as a family, you can see why I love and adore this day and am willing to pay whatever necessary for a flight home.
Gratitude is one of my favorite spiritual practices, and with a name like “Thanksgiving,” gratitude is practically built into the holiday. One of my favorite gratitude practices is the one of Examen, where you look back over the day and ask yourself, “What am I most grateful for today, and why? And what am I least grateful for today and why?” By reflecting on your day, you are reminded of the various moments throughout the day—I oftentimes think of it in terms of sifting through my “snapshots” of the day and selecting the picture from one moment that I am most and least grateful for.
The most important part of this practice is not just naming what your favorite part of the day was, but also articulating why that moment in the day was your most grateful and least grateful moment. I am most grateful for the opportunity to go home for Thanksgiving because when I am with my family, I am reminded that I am loved for who I am, without expectations. (I am least grateful to be leaving my beloved 9-month-old kitten behind because I’m always afraid she’s going to forget how much she loves me when I return.)
We need these intentional moments in our days, but also throughout the year. We need these intention moments where we are given room to be reminded and reflect on why we do what we do. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do this practice, especially in preparation for Advent and Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I already have my calendar filling up with dates and events to come. One of those events is Lessons and Carols, on November 30 at 7:00 p.m. at Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, but this isn’t one of those events that expects something of or from me. It’s the one night where I have the space to pause and reflect on why this season is celebrated, and to be reminded that it is not about the commercialization, but instead is a time for internal and communal preparation together to celebrate the light and love of Christ that has come, is here, and will be coming into the world. A Service of Lessons and Carols provides this expectation-free space where all can gather to be reminded and reflect on the love of God throughout time and history and know that this love continues in our lives today.