“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm100:4-5)
Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. I recognize it is not an official Christian holiday like Christmas and Easter, but we probably behave more like Christians on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.
It is so easy to get sidetracked on those other holidays. Christmas, the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, finds most of us preoccupied with shopping for gifts, decorating houses, and a guy who comes down chimneys most homes today don’t even have.
Then on Easter weekend, when we are invited to focus on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, far too many of us get distracted with chocolate bunnies, hiding eggs and finding new outfits to wear.
So praise God for Thanksgiving, a day when we manage to stay on track with the reason for the season. We gather as family and friends and give thanks for family and friends. We take time out of our busy lives to gratefully remember our other blessings – all those things we take for granted most of the year.
We “feel good and eat good” on Thanksgiving. A lot of us even take naps we don’t normally take. And it won’t be because turkey contains tryptophan, the so-called “drowsy” drug. In actuality, turkey contains no greater quantity of tryptophan than other meats we consume.
The real reason so many of us feel good and even nap on Thanksgiving is the God-given power of “an attitude of gratitude”. “Thank you” is more than good manners.
You remember how we learned as children to say, “Thank you.” Our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and older sisters constantly reminded us. “What do you say, Doug?” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.”
“Thank you” was something I first learned to say simply because I was supposed to say it. I appreciate that lesson in manners and wish more children today were taught it. But I appreciate even more the lessons I have since learned about thanksgiving from scripture verses like Psalm 100, Psalm 136, and Philippians 4:4-7. These scriptures help us see the four-step pattern of gratitude’s power.
First step: We remember good things that have happened in our lives – blessings we received and challenges that were met. This frees us from being completely stuck in our present problems and worries.
Second step: We thank God for those good things that have happened. In remembering all good things come from God, we turn our attention on Him, give Him the credit He deserves and clothe ourselves in an attitude of humility and dependence. Properly dressed, we can now enter His gates.
Third step: We remember God provided those good things because God is always good and He loves us with a perfect, never-ending love. This turns our focus from the good things of the past to the good God of our present and future – a God worthy of our continued praise and trust. We enter His courts.
Fourth step: Strengthened in our hope, we can begin to taste a divine peace and joy that comes in spite of our difficult circumstances. We can boldly and reverently come before God’s throne, presenting our present burdens to Him with thanksgiving because we know we are still the sheep of His pasture. The Good Shepherd of yesterday, when we received past blessings and met past challenges, is the same Good Shepherd today, tomorrow and forever.
Thanksgiving triggers four simple steps that cover a vast amount of territory because they take us from darkness to light. They take us from focusing on our self and our problems to focusing on God. Powerful!
The apostle Paul, who knew a great deal about both blessings and hardships, said this: “Be thankful…. Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)
What Paul was saying, I believe, is that every day should be a thanksgiving day for all of us. In a way, that will be good for me because it gives me 365 favorite holidays each year. On a deeper and more serious and sacred note, that will be good for all of us and all of those we love because saying “thank you” to God is more than good manners. Much more.
God bless you, and God bless our community.