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A mild breeze providing refreshing coolness after the smouldering heat of summer, the silent transformation of nature’s colors from green and gold to hues of rust, red, brown, and orange…
Fall is here! (Or if you’re from my neck of the woods, you say Autumn! ;-))
The change of season brings with it joyful anticipation of the holiday calendar. And what better way to kick off the festivities than with Thanksgiving!
However, as much as we enjoy pumpkin shopping, decorating our homes with fall decor, and sitting around the family table to eat a roast turkey meal with all the trimmings, let us remember that Thanksgiving means so much more than that.
Thanksgiving is about giving thanks ( l mean it’s literally in the word) and yes, it is a time of the year when we specifically express gratitude for our loved ones and what we have.
However, there’s one major, nay, colossal reason for us to be thankful – not just during Thanksgiving, but every day (1 Thessalonians 5:18) – and that’s God. For it is because of Him that we have Salvation and eternal life with Him, through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if you like me, would like to make God the VIP guest in your home and your life this holiday, then keep on reading our 9 ideas on how to have a Christ-centered Thanksgiving!
1.Remember God’s Goodness
Thanksgiving is the optimal time in which to reflect on all the wonderful ways in which God has been good to you and your family this year.
During your quiet time with God, read and meditate on Bible verses that give accounts of God’s promises of love, provision, protection, and mercy. Some wonderful examples of these are 1 John 4:9-10, Hebrews 13:5 (AMP), Joshua 1:9, and Lamentations 3:22-23.
A particularly beautiful way to keep an account of God’s acts of goodness is to write them down as they occur. Keep a gratitude journal of all the times that God has come through for you and yours this year. At Thanksgiving, share your entries with your family and praise and thank God together for keeping you all safe and well for another year.
2. Tell Loved Ones That You’re Grateful For Them
Philippians 1:3 teaches us to remember those close to us and to praise God for their presence in our lives. Therefore, in the time leading up to Thanksgiving, let friends and loved ones know how grateful you are for them by sending them a card or a letter. Imagine their smiles when they receive an unexpected correspondence from you, especially if they live far away! Alternatively, ring up a friend, whom you haven’t spoken to in a long time and ask how they are.
You can even let family members you live with know how much you cherish them: Place a heart-shaped note in your child’s lunch box telling them how much you love them or write your spouse a text during the day just to tell him/her that you’re looking forward to seeing them in the evening.
Here’s a fun tip: Leave sticky notes around the house with encouraging messages for your family to discover!
3. Repent and Forgive
A key component of being thankful is asking God to forgive us for the trespasses that we made against Him and others this year. Carrying resentment, bitterness, and guilt can weigh us down, and keep us occupied with negative thoughts and emotions, which can ultimately distract us from appreciating the good works and redeeming grace that God blesses us with.
Repentance encourages us to search our hearts and practice humility as we are confronted by areas in our lives that we need to work on. When we ask God for forgiveness, the realization of how much we need His mercy and grace in our daily lives evokes a deep gratitude in us for the love and blessings He so graciously bestows upon us.
A great example of the power of gratitude through repentance is Jesus’ forgiveness of a sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. Described in some biblical translations as being a prostitute, this woman has been declared a social outcast based on her sinful life; and yet, she bravely approaches Jesus when He is dining at a Pharisee’s house and repents for her sins by washing His feet with her tears, drying His feet with her hair, and anointing His soles with perfume. What joy she must have felt when Jesus declared her forgiven in Luke 7:48! How thankful she must have been to be able to start a new life unburdened by the guilt and judgment she had previously carried around with her!
Just as Thanksgiving proves to be a good time for us to seek forgiveness, so we should take this season to forgive others. Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 18:21-22 that we should forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times!
And besides, Jesus forgave us for our sins – and He only needed to do it once. So, who are we to hold a grudge against anyone, when Jesus ultimately gave His life for us?
4. Include Scripture in Your Thanksgiving Decorations
Keep Christ the center of your Thanksgiving festivities by incorporating your favorite Scriptures in your holiday home decor.
For the Thanksgiving table, you can place Scripture cards or gratitude cards with Bible verses at every place setting. You can also make your own cards and write or print Bible verses such as Psalm 9:1, Joel 2:26, or 1 Corinthians 1:4 on them. A framed prayer on the table gives a nice touch to your table decor and encourages everyone to read the prayer as a family when they’re at the table.
If you are interested in including Scripture in your Thanksgiving home decor this year, our Etsy Shop Faith Love Life Designs has a lovely array of printable wall art, cards, prayers, and more.
5. Count Your Blessings
At Thanksgiving, it is customary to share what we are thankful for with our friends and loved ones. In the same way, we can express our thanks to God for His love, provision, protection, and grace throughout the year. A wonderful way to do this is by making a Blessing Tree.
In order to set up your Blessing Tree, you need to start with the trunk. You can either make this out of brown paper or cardboard and hang it on a wall. Alternatively, you can take a branch from outside and place it in a vase. Make leaves out of paper or use real leaves and place them in a bowl next to the trunk with some pens, glue, and yarn for later. To customize your tree, hang photos of your family members from the branches. When the family gathers together, you can each write on a leaf how God has blessed you and then hang or paste each leaf on the tree. And voila, you’ve got yourselves a Blessing Tree!
If you haven’t got time to organize leaves, then you can purchase them pre-cut, complete with string for hanging such as this Count your Blessings Thankful Thanksgiving Tree Kit.
What l love about a Blessing Tree is that it is an activity that even the youngest members of the family can enjoy, and it teaches them from an early age about the importance of gratitude. You can even get your kids to make the leaves for your Blessing Tree by tracing their handprints, which makes the experience even more fun for them!
6. Invite someone to Thanksgiving Dinner
Re-enact “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (I love that film btw) by inviting a work colleague, a single friend (or friends ;-)), or an acquaintance to share Thanksgiving with you and your crowd!
Many people are alone during the holidays and for that reason, it is a time of the year that they come to dread. Not only can you make this holiday easier on someone by showing them that you see them and that you care, but it is also a wonderful way to extend the love of God through your gift of hospitality.
And who knows – you might end up inviting an angel to dinner (Hebrews 13:2) ;-)!
7. Serve Others
Practicing humility promotes gratitude in us for God and others. And what better way to practice humility than by serving others. Jesus is the best role model for us in serving others. One of my favorite examples of this is when Jesus washes the disciple’s feet in John 13:1-17.
There are numerous ways that we can serve others that are familiar to us such as volunteering in a nursing home or animal shelter. These and many more are fantastic ways to serve.
You can also get creative with how you serve. For example, if you are a hairdresser or make-up artist, you could volunteer in the hospital to do the patient’s hair and make-up. Or you could have pizzas sent to your local fire or police station or register yourself for the gift-wrapping service at your local mall. You can even encourage your kids to serve by having them make Christmas cards for your local nursing home, or have them offer to rake the neighbor’s yard.
The ways in which we can serve are limitless, so let’s start helping others during this season!
8. Leave a Thanksgiving Legacy for Your Children
Thanksgiving is more than just turkey and football. As Christians, it is important to teach our children their legacy in Christ, especially during this holiday. When Joshua led the Israelites over the Jordan River and into Canaan in Joshua 3, God afterward instructed the Israelites to take 12 stones from the river bed and set them up at Gilgal as a reminder for generations to come of how God stopped the waters of the Jordan to bring His people safely across into the Promised Land (Joshua 4:1-9).
Teach your children the importance of Thanksgiving and the power of gratitude as God’s children in order that they will remember God’s goodness and pass it on to their children and then onto their children.
In some of our previous sections in this article, we have mentioned how you can involve children in practicing gratitude, such as making a Blessings Tree or serving others.
You can also take the weeks building up to Thanksgiving to teach your children to be thankful to God for all things – great or small – that He does in their lives e.g. having running water, food to eat, toys to play with, and so forth.
Additionally, you can embark on a joint project with your child by e.g. putting a food hamper together for a sick neighbor or a local homeless shelter and delivering it together.
Another lovely way to teach your children about God and Thanksgiving is through picture books. I found this “Pumpkin Devotions for Preschoolers and Kindergartners” so sweet with its Autumn-themed illustrations, Bible verses, and craft ideas. “A Pumpkin Prayer” is also a cute, colorful book that teaches children how to be thankful for God’s goodness.
9. Let Blessings Flow
Just this Sunday in church, l heard the pastor tell the congregation that blessings are like a river: It flows from one person to the next.
When God shows us grace and mercy, when He blesses us and makes a way in our lives when we saw no way, then it honors Him when we pass on that feeling of being cared for and loved onto others. The recipients of our blessings can then bless others and so on and so forth.
There are many ways that you can bless someone. Ring up a friend whom you haven’t talked to in a while and ask them how they’re doing. Offer to babysit your friend’s kids so that they can get their holiday shopping done, or clean their house for them if they’re busy. You can even help strangers by paying at the supermarket checkout or drive-through for the person in line behind you. Even giving someone on the street a smile or a genuine compliment will make their day!
“Paying it Forward” is also an impactful way to ensure a flow of blessings from one person to the next. If someone thanks you for doing something nice for them, tell them in turn that no repayment is needed; instead, that person can repeat that act of kindness with another individual. Their recipient can in turn perform the same act of kindness for another individual etc. Thus, in that way, you “pay forward” your original act of kindness.
An example of this would be to give someone your seat on the bus, or your parking space, and the recipient, in turn, gives up a seat or a parking space, and then the next person does, etc. Children can also be active participants in “paying it forward”. For example, you can encourage your child to let another child go ahead of them on the slide or swings at the playground and they pass that act of kindness on.
A financial gift to a charity or non-profit organization to aid those in need is also a thoughtful way to keep the flow of blessings moving. Giving Tuesday is a global philanthropic movement that encourages people to donate to charitable causes. It takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, that is the day after Cyber Monday. This year, Giving Tuesday will take place on the 30th of November. In addition to financial donations, people can donate resources, time, talents, and even their voices.
For information on how you can participate in Giving Tuesday, click here.
We hope that you found our 9 ideas on how to have a Christ-centered Thanksgiving useful. If you have any other ideas, we would love to hear about them in the comments below!
Until then, we at Jacob’s Ladder wish you a Christ-centered Thanksgiving full of warmth, love, and cheer!
Co-Founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog
sharefaith.com, “25 Ideas on How To Show Gratitude During Thanksgiving”, Share Faith Magazine.
ivyrobes.com, “Fresh Christian Thanksgiving Ideas for Church and Family”
churchm.ag, “18 Thanksgiving Social Media and Blogging Ideas for Your Ministry”, Jeremy Smith.
bible.knowing-jesus.com, “40 Bible Verses about Thankfulness To Others”
sparks.fuller.edu, “Thankfulness and Repentance”, Alice Reed.
inspiredandrefreshed.com, “Have a Christ-Focused Thanksgiving Table”
raisingarrows.net, “A Thanksgiving Craft to Cherish Forever (Blessing Tree)”
ihomeschoolnetwork.com, “25 Easy Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Thanksgiving”, Cheryl Pitt.
donorbox.org, “10 Creative Giving Tuesday Ideas 2021”, Wagisha Jha.