I often feel gratitude that does not become expressed gratitude. And, as we approach the end-of-year festivities and the onset of a new year, I am aware of my need to develop a new and more consistent practice of giving voice to my thankfulness. It matters that the people in my life know how much I appreciate them and why. It matters that I tell God why I love Him.
Why is it that human beings are sometimes prone to settle for feeling grateful and miss opportunities to give thanks? Possibly it is poor time management, and we just don’t get around to it. Or, maybe it’s a pride issue that prevents us from being vulnerable. Could it be that we don’t realize how necessary it is in a healthy relationship to communicate these matters of the heart? Bottom line: we need to give thanks. It is good for the soul, and it brings people together.
The Thanksgiving Holiday was my dad’s favorite celebration of God’s faithful goodness, and it was at his direction that we took turns around the table saying to each other what and who had made our hearts glad. Adults would smile as children said things like, “I’m grateful for not getting a “C” in conduct,” or “I’m grateful that our puppy is now house-trained.” Aunts and Uncles, parents and grandparents would take turns speaking simply or eloquently of new and old friendships, restored relationships, and specific things the Lord had done or said. We still carry on the tradition today when we all gather for our Thanksgiving meal (you probably do the same in your family), and it continues to be rich and meaningful.
This opening of the heart has always seemed a fitting way to enter into the Christmas and Advent season, when we give what we have generously to bless our loved ones and people in need, giving thanks and rejoicing in the good news of Jesus’ incarnation. And gratitude does open the heart. It enlarges our capacity to show love and to receive love. It focuses our attention on what we have rather than on what we don’t have. It trains the eye and the heart to see beauty and worth and to rejoice in them. Whether it is for a small act of kindness you’ve received from a friend or the profound grace-filled gift of salvation, the expression of gratitude, the giving of thanks, breaks us open to heaven’s glory.
Our Father, I give you thanks and praise for the family of God who are known to me. These precious ones with whom you’ve allowed me to journey, who are dear to me because of their varied and diverse expressions of love, and who radiate different aspects of your divine nature. Truly, I rejoice at Christ’s appearing in them, and I am richly blessed to see their love for you and their service to the King. Bless them, each one, with your unfailing love, your daily mercies, and your abundant life. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Dear reader, be intentional this week and in the coming weeks to ponder what makes your heart glad and give voice to that gladness. You will be blessed, and you will be a blessing. Nothing is as contagious as real joy.
Until next week, dearly beloved, let your heart be glad, and give thanks.