The day before Thanksgiving is often thought of as the busiest travel day of the year. Whether you are traveling by car, train, or plane, it seems like just about everyone is on the move on the day before Thanksgiving. Everyone has a place to be and people to see. A singular focus on reaching their destination that will not be stopped by any amount of traffic, delay, or weather.
Why do people go through the hassle of traveling during what is known as the busiest time to do so?
The answer is so simple that it feels cliche to say, but it rings true regardless: to be gathered with the people they love.
Whether you are traveling across the country to visit friends and family or if you are preparing to host yourself for family and neighbors, we all long to be around the table with those we care about this Thanksgiving.
What about those who are unable to be with their loved ones this season? For whatever reason, whether it be work, distance, conflict, disease, etc., many are simply not able to spend the holidays with those they love.
My family typically gathers for Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. While I was in college, however, it didn’t make sense for me to come home for Thanksgiving as I went to college over a thousand miles away and would need to fly back and forth. One particular Thanksgiving, I was also serving as a resident assistant at my college and was required to stay on campus for the break.
One of my coworkers also had to stay on campus, but her family lived only 30 minutes away from campus. So, she invited me and the rest of our staff to join her and her family on Thanksgiving.
Despite being over a thousand miles from home and having to work that night, I was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving with friends all thanks to a simple invitation.
While Thanksgiving would not be established as a holiday for another 1600 years, Jesus knew a thing or two about banquets in his day. And, I mean, isn’t Thanksgiving just a time of huge banquets?
One Sabbath, Jesus attended a dinner at the house of a well-known Jewish leader.
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14:12-24 NIV
You have to admit, Jesus telling His host how to host a banquet doesn’t feel like the most gracious thing for a guest to do.
Regardless, Jesus used this opportunity to teach what is now known as the Parable of the Great Banquet. Using a great banquet as the analogy, Jesus teaches that each and every single one of us has the invitation to take part in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. And yet many of us make excuses and do not take the free invitation provided.
While that larger meaning of the passage is certainly worth deeper study and meditation on, there is a simple takeaway that we can all grasp from the passage going into Thanksgiving and then the Christmas season.
Are there people in your life that could use an invitation this holiday season? Do you know someone who is far from home, hurting, or has no place to go? A simple invitation may seem small at the moment, but it can mean everything to someone who would otherwise be spending a holiday alone.
We are all called to love our neighbors as Jesus did. To look to the margins and ask the question “who should be here that isn’t?” Jesus ate not only with the Jewish elites but also with the outcasts, the traitors, and those who were thought of as unclean.
As we gather with friends and family this Thanksgiving, take that moment to look around the room. Is there anyone who should or could be there that is not? If so, go get them, invite them, and bring them to the table. Jesus has given each of us a free invitation to the greatest banquet of all time, let’s be an example of His invitation to those around us.
Don’t worry, I’m sure there will still be leftovers to enjoy on Friday.