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I stood in the checkout line behind a woman who was slamming her groceries on the counter. You could tell she was frustrated and feeling hostile. She said, "I can't wait for Thanksgiving to be over!" I asked her why she dreads Thanksgiving, and she answered, "Because all six children and their families will be coming home--25 in all--and I will work like a slave to prepare a meal that will be eaten in 25 minutes. I hate it!"

All kinds of things go through your mind when you hear something like this. Every person who prepares a meal may feel this way when a meal is inhaled in a short time. But most of us can focus on the reason for getting together. Joy and warmth are the result when people who love one another get together for a common meal.

Jesus understood this when he shared a common meal with his disciples. In the early times communion was not just sharing of bread and wine as symbols of Christ's body and blood, but included the whole meal. Sharing a common meal with those you love can be a communion.

A meal of any kind is always more fun when all share in the preparation. I shared such a meal at a new friend's home last weekend. The hostess assigned jobs to each guest as they arrived. Today, I cannot remember all that was on the menu, but the fellowship and love I felt that night still brings a warm glow to my heart. I felt I belonged!

At this time of year, our thoughts naturally turn to those places in our lives where we are brought in from the cold, given a place in the circle and a warm welcome. We find faces we long for, the hugs and laughter we cherish.

If friends are gathering at our house, anticipation is balanced with preparation. We cook, bake, change beds, and clean, and try to figure out where to sleep 15 grandchildren, plus parents. We give ourselves and our guests the opportunity that only comes during times of reunion and--who knows--may never come again. We can look people in the eye and let them know they are important to us. We can welcome them into our hearts as well as our homes.

Our ancestors must have longed for "coming home." "Leaving home" may have meant never seeing loved ones again. Because of these travelers, and in memory of their sacrifices, we give thanks each year by setting aside a day where the emphasis is not on the food but the gathering together to share our love and heritage.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord with thanksgiving!


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