How to Give Thanks

“What are you thankful for?” 

That’s a question many will be asking around the table at Thanksgiving dinner. What if instead we asked: “How have you lived a life of gratitude this past year?”

We live in a culture that tends to make a consumeristic feast out of something that should be a lifestyle. It’s easy to be carried away by an idea of what the holiday should look like.

The perfect cooked turkey, all the family getting along (or at least pretending to for a few hours), delicious pies for dessert while watching the Lions win (yes, our expectations are high this year!).

Some of you might be getting ready to have a house full of people. Some might be cooking, gathering with friends and family, while others might be having a quiet holiday, or might even be alone.

Whatever expectations may come into this day, I want to challenge you to hold on to gratitude and joy. Not just for the day, but for the whole year.

We all know it doesn’t take much for us to feel that the holiday is missing something. Maybe the food didn’t turn out so great, or your child couldn’t come. Maybe it’s your estranged parents (or children), or divorce. Maybe the death of a loved one this past year. 

Many things can distort an unrealistic picture of what this holiday should be. So, I want to encourage you to look for gratitude and joy. You may need to dig deeper, but it’s there.

Scripture never ties being thankful to circumstances.  It actually does the opposite.

So, how do we give thanks?

To the Philippians, Paul who was believed to be in prison when writing, said:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

Phil 4: 4-6 ESV

When David was being scorned by enemies he said:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”

Psalm 9:1-2 ESV

And in the midst of extreme philosophical and theological differences Paul said to the church in Colossae:

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

Colossians 3:14-15 ESV

I believe that’s a good start! Remember: thanksgiving comes from within. Maybe if we practice being thankful for one thing everyday, we can celebrate Thanksgiving with less expectation for having a ‘picture-perfect’ holiday. What if you were to pause everyday for a few minutes, and maybe even write down one thing you’re thankful for? What about doing that for the whole year? How would Thanksgiving be celebrated next year?

Practically speaking, you may need to have the courage to change your traditions (not just your expectations), if necessary, in the midst of being thankful.  This is particularly true if you have had a life-changing event this past year. You may need to give room for grief, but grief doesn’t exclude thanksgiving.  

Ask God for the grace to see good in a new way, and may the expression of that come through in whatever way you choose to celebrate this holiday.

Christiane and I are very thankful for you, and the opportunity to serve at Mariners’ Church! Thank you for your warm welcome, love and support!

May God richly bless you this Thanksgiving and always!

Blessings and peace,

Rev. Todd & Dr. Christiane