We usually get really sentimental, grateful, and thankful around these times. The holiday season, from right after Halloween till right after New Year’s, tends to conjure all kinds of nostalgia and obligatory reunions, thoughts of home, family, and love, all of which have, regrettably, not much residual effect on 21st century society. No doubt, these are some of the best times of the year, though. But I don’t wish to guilt-trip you into being thankful today. Sometimes that’s the case of writers and pastors, and the like, as they all feel as though it’s their responsibility to coerce gratitude out of people who have so much to be grateful for, especially via the common “Be Thankful All Year Round, Not Just Today” articles that get written and shared across all social media platforms. My plea with you would just be to remember, just to sit and reflect, just to rest quietly and consciously ponder all the things you can be thankful to God for throughout the past year or months or weeks, or even the last decade!
When all the bedlam and noise of food, family, and football subsides, be still, be silent — and there you’ll find the flood of thankfulness overwhelm your soul. We often treat the hymn “Count Your Many Blessings” as trite and trivial, but nothing could be more meaningful or vital for the spiritual health of the Christian. Thankfulness is (or should be) the modus operandi for all genuine believers in Christ, as we literally inhale grace and exhale praise. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Heb 13:15) “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:20)
Never should a moment pass when gratitude isn’t given for the gift of the gospel. Never should an hour escape you where you aren’t humbled and awed by God’s “unspeakable gift” (2 Cor 9:15), his “only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16), the Lord Jesus Christ. For, even the very next expanse of your lungs belongs to God. George Swinnock puts it this way: “Every breath in your life is a gift of mercy.” In light of this sobering verity and reality, how can we not “give thanks in all circumstances” (2 Thes 5:18)? Too often, and shamefully so, the busyness and craziness of the holidays crowds the meaning they were meant to have. The purpose of them is clouded by parties and people, and, without notice, we become ungrateful, sour, almost robotic. But don’t let this happen. Don’t let today pass without thanking the One who has given you everything for which you can be eternally grateful. Neither misunderstand my message, though: enjoy today — enjoy family, enjoy food, enjoy football, enjoy fellowship. Be taken up with joy and happiness as loved ones are hugged and friends are greeted. Lose yourself in the elation that walks with Thanksgiving and all its fixings. Cherish these moments.
But when that’s all over, when the day’s hullabaloo has ceased and as the pumpkins and leaves are replaced with garland and wreaths, don’t forget or neglect the Savior and Redeemer and Giver of all life, all grace, and all hope. As the crooners begin their incessant and inexhaustible song, don’t let the commercialization of the holidays deafen you to their individualization: forget not that the baby in the manger that secular musicians sing of is the King of Glory, the Hope of Nations, the Friend of Sinners, the Sun of Righteousness, and the God of All Grace.
He’s Emmanuel, Jehovah, the Lord, the Messiah, the Christ. And he’s come for you. God’s descension brings deliverance. Jesus died for world, he died for individuals, he died for you! Sit in the silence and think of this, friends, and let your prayer be like that of the psalmist’s: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14) Think of this. Meditate on Jesus and his all-encompassing grace, folks, for then you’re free to be truly thankful.