Stitched on pillows, printed on banners, and stamped on plaques on store shelves across the country is the word “gather.” November is the month for coming home, the month to reunite, the month to gather. It’s no wonder that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is repeatedly the busiest air travel day of the year.
But did you know this warm, inviting word has deep eternal roots? On the surface gather means simply getting together. Gather also means collecting similar or necessary items for baking your famous pumpkin pie, finding stored toys for your grandchildren’s arrival, bringing in armloads of pine cones and colorful leaves for decorating your table. Yet the full richness of this word is found in the many ways God uses it when He speaks of His children whom He loves.
About a decade ago when we were facing a crisis with one of our children, God graciously reminded me of the words of Jesus when He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37). My deep parental love for my child longed to gather this wandering one close for protection and safety. Emotional pain unlike any other was my constant companion in that too-long season of praying for repentance and restoration. In His kindness, God taught me much during those years about His unending love for me, also a wanderer—from Him, causing Him grief. Our heavenly father longs for me and for you to draw near to Him in the same way earthly parents want their children to come home for holidays.
God’s gathering love is about much more than a holiday feast. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among them,” said Jesus (Matthew 18:20). “Don’t neglect to meet together,” the author of Hebrews said (10:25), because being with other believers brings encouragement. But my favorite verses about gathering are those with a future reference. One day we who believe in Jesus for salvation will be gathered to our heavenly home to be forever with God, our Father, and Jesus, our Brother, our true forever family. “And He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Like an earthly father, God will one day “whistle for them (the people of Israel) to gather them together, for [he has] redeemed them” (Zechariah 10:8).
As you spend many loving hours this month preparing for your Thanksgiving gathering, remember that Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive (or gather) you to Myself…” (John 14:3). When we gather in His name we are enacting a future event more wonderful than the best Thanksgiving feast imaginable. Remembering His gathering to come will make this year’s family time more sacred and meaningful.