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November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving in the Time of COVID: 5 Keys to Enjoying the Holiday

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15


Thanksgiving in America will be different in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In many states, we have to navigate restrictions for limiting travel, wearing face coverings indoors, and gathering in smaller numbers. While some people will gather in person, others will have virtual celebrations or a combination of both.

Even the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in New York is virtual-only this year. No crowds for the first time ever. But you can still watch it online or on TV.

Indeed, whether you agree or disagree with the constraints, this year's celebration will likely be one that we won't soon forget.

So even if you can't go "over the river and through the woods" to grandmother's house or condo, how can you still have an enjoyable turkey holiday?

You can remember why we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Choose to be thankful despite circumstances. And enjoy the good things that are never canceled, like love, joy, hope, and peace.

Here are five key ideas to help you enjoy Thanksgiving Day in the time of COVID.

1. STAY HEALTHY. Keep informed and make wise decisions. As you know, every state has its own guidelines or mandates, but most health officials suggest wearing a mask (face covering) in public places, washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs, and staying home if you're sick. Some suggest eating outdoors where possible (or opening windows for fresh air while eating indoors).

2. REMEMBER. Talk about personal Thanksgiving traditions from your past. It makes me happy to recall watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV as a child, while the luscious scents of baking pies and turkey wafted into the family room. Reminisce about the good times you've had on holidays past, and the people you care about that make holiday gatherings special.

Remember why we celebrate this holiday. American Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, is traditionally about food, family, friends, and football. It's also a time to give thanks to God for the gracious ways He has provided for us. He is faithful, and we are grateful.

You can also bring to mind the first Thanksgiving in 1621, nearly 400 years ago. Courageous men, women, and children we call Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people gathered at Plymouth Colony for three feast-filled days to celebrate their abundant harvest and to give thanks to God for His bounty of blessings.

While many of us enjoy familiar holiday foods like turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, the people at the first Thanksgiving also gobbled up lobster, oysters, and eel.

3. PRAY. Take time to pray, at your holiday meal or another time on Thanksgiving Day. Whether you are blessed or in need, you can be grateful. Thank God for His goodness, His love for you, His provision, protection, and other attributes. Thank Him for what He has done, or has yet to do. Gratefulness leads to joy! Psalm 107:1 reminds us to "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."

Here is a short prayer you can use as you pray for your holiday meal.

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
Lord, we come before you—humble and grateful—on this Thanksgiving Day. Thank you for the people gathered here. We ask You to bless this food and our time together today. May it be a peaceful and joyful time of celebrating Your abundance and Your provision. Keep us all safe and healthy. Bless those in need, and may our hearts find joy in helping others, as we are able. We give You thanks—on this holiday and always. In Jesus' mighty name. Amen.

You may also choose to "share thanks" at your holiday meal or afterward. Each person can briefly share what he or she is thankful for if they choose. In 2020, people seem to be grateful for the little things, the simple things, because our world has been changed in ways unexpected.

4. HELP OTHERS. The holidays are always a good time to reach out to help those in need. Of course, we can help at any time of the year and also at Thanksgiving. Consider:
• Donating to your local food bank. These days, many places allow you to drop off donations without leaving your vehicle.
• Hosting a food drive at your church or place of employment.
• Serving food at a local homeless shelter.
• Helping your neighbor (For example, if you're shoveling snow on the sidewalk in front of your house, take the extra step to shovel the sidewalk in front of your neighbor's house, as well.)
• Reaching out to those who may be lonely. Don't forget about the singles in your church or neighborhood, or military men and women who may not be able to travel home for the holiday. Think about a friend with health issues who can't leave the house. Or the relative in a nursing home or long-term care facility who hasn't been able to leave their residence in months because of state mandates. Make a phone call. Or FaceTime. Or wave outside his or her window, if you can. Let them know they are not forgotten and that they are loved.

5. ENJOY. Lastly, turn off the news (even for the day) and enjoy the people you are with the sumptuous food, and the good times. Make memories. Relax. Watch the game. Have good conversations. Play games. Take a walk. Decorate your Christmas tree. Take a nap. Connect virtually (call, text, Skype, or FaceTime with far-away family or friends).

So bring on the turkey and all the fixings. I'm ready for a day of thanks to the One who loves us most—and a grateful heart all throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

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