As the holiday season approaches, it can be particularly difficult to focus on the work at hand. I start to pray, only to have people’s faces blur together as my mind wanders. My family comes to mind and I think of each one of them with longing, daydreaming about joining them at Thanksgiving.
Sure, I could purchase a last-minute Greyhound ticket to go four hours north of the city and spend the holiday with my family. However, this November I get to stay in New York as part of the Equip Program. More than that, I am staying because I am looking for opportunities to celebrate this classic American holiday with Bengali Americans. My team is praying that celebrating Thanksgiving with our friends from Bangladesh will give us opportunities to share the gift we are most thankful to have — freedom from shame through Isa Al Masih – Jesus the Messiah.
Thanksgiving With A New Family
Many immigrants in our country celebrate Thanksgiving by hosting large family gatherings and preparing food, though perhaps not the traditional spread of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Nevertheless, they share delicious, home-cooked, dishes. This is arguably the most welcoming holiday to immigrants and newcomers as Thanksgiving is rooted sharing provision from God with others. This family and community-orientated holiday centers on shared humanity and finding reasons to rejoice, regardless of circumstances or differences. The opportunity to experience this holiday with our international friends is extremely meaningful as we each bring aspects of our cultural roots to the table (literally) and find fullness in sharing what we are thankful for together. Just the thought of taking up their invitation to come and eat with their families brings me joy.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love the foreigner living among us. By inviting them to our table and receiving the invitation to theirs, we show love and embody Christ’s likeness through incarnational ministry. Jesus came to us in human form to experience the breadth of human life – the eating, the conversation, the laughter, the family, the friendship. In the process of taking the gospel to the nations, we too embody this presence with our neighbors. We eat with them and love them with a love not our own so we may invite them into the family of God through Jesus, our Messiah.