I don’t know what season it might be in which you happen to read this, but a couple of weeks ago was the the fourth Thursday of the month of November, known affectionately as the holiday of Thanksgiving in the US. Canada gives thanks on a Monday, and other countries have similar holidays with their own variations. Festivals that celebrate the harvest and give thanks for the events of the year past are and have been common in many cultures and countries throughout the centuries. In the United States, the tradition for this holiday can be traced back to a harvest feast that was celebrated between the Wampanoag and Plymouth colonists in 1621. Two different cultures, at apparent odds with each other over possession of land and dominance, coming together to celebrate the good things that God, through his nature and goodness has provided.
Now regardless of how true this story may be, it leaves us with some interesting thoughts. Who initiated and extended the invitation? Would it be possible to extend the same type of invitation today to people who are culturally, linguistically, and in all ways very different from ourselves? What would happen if we did?
At Equip this year we had the unique opportunity and privilege to extend the same hospitality and love to our immigrant neighbors. A family of westerners invited our Hindu refugee neighbors into our home. We coordinated food together with them and had a mix of dishes from each kitchen; with classic Thanksgiving dishes as well as delicious dahl puri, savory butter chicken, and sweet mishtee. We sang worship songs together, gave thanks to Jesus for their lives and for his presence in ours.
In the weeks leading up to the event, we were very nervous about culturally offending our guests. As the night went on, we all noticed how much we were all feeding off of the love we felt for each other and the grace that abounded in our little gathering. Our guests left late that night feeling welcomed, seen, and appreciated. They left with an appreciation of what a Thanksgiving could look like in a western home. We were left with even more gratitude for Jesus, for the way he was planting love in our hearts for these people and providing the creativity needed to put such an event together.
We were surprised to find out that in over 25 years of residence in this country, it was the first time they had been invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with Americans. Days later we found out our neighbors still have worship songs stuck in their heads. Can you believe it? The nations sing his name with praise. You have neighbors too, foreign or otherwise. People who you are on good terms with and those who start their leaf blowers at 7:30am on a Saturday.
Have your foreign neighbors ever had a Thanksgiving celebration with Americans? Have your domestic neighbors ever celebrated the giving of thanks with a community of people who find their source of joy and gratitude in Jesus? Whatever the answer to those questions, I think you know what I am going to ask. And why not? After all, what an opportunity! One of the most exciting parts of the good news of Jesus for the authors of the New Testament was the explicit end to spiritual apartheid. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is rejoicing that the mystery has finally been revealed! Both Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus share equally in the riches God gives his children! (Ephesians 3:6) Knowing that Jesus lived in and interacted with this cross-cultural world lends even more weight to the intentionality of this plan. Let us take every opportunity to live out this truth. Maybe you missed Thanksgiving this year, but it’ll come around again next year. There is Christmas to consider as well. Maybe just start with a dinner…