There seems to be a forgotten holiday between Halloween and Christmas. Suddenly, we're thrown from pumpkins and goblins to the manger scene without consideration of Thanksgiving at all. The question Christians should be asking is whether we need a day set aside for giving thanks. The answer to that is “yes and no.” As Christians, we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Perhaps it seems easy to give thanks around the Thanksgiving table surrounded by friends, family and food. St. Paul, on the other hand, tells the Thessalonians that they are to give thanks for all things and in all circumstances.
The same message applies to us today. It is imperative that we, as Christians, set aside time to acknowledge and offer gratitude to the Lord for the blessings He has bestowed upon us, both as a nation and as children of God. In the United States, we are bombarded with messages of division, hate, and anger instead of acknowledging the abundance of graces we enjoy as Americans. Thanksgiving Day is a time set aside to address this lack of gratitude and to encourage us to focus on our blessings instead of the negativity promulgated by the propaganda of media. Perhaps, for most individuals, the holiday season is the easiest time of the year to find things for which to be thankful.
It is easy to give thanks to God on days such as Thanksgiving; however, what about days throughout the year when loved ones become ill, jobs are lost, inflation causes financial insecurity, etc.? It’s during those times that St. Paul’s command to us seems unrealistic and impossible. Even in those circumstances, though, there is always something for which to be grateful. For example, Psalm 118:24 tells us, “This is a day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The psalmist continues a few verses down in 118:28-29 by saying, “you are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.” If we are to live a life of gratitude, we must first begin with recognizing that each day is a day that the Lord has created and given to us. One of the most important ways to guard our hearts from the evil that permeates our televisions and electronic devices is to begin each day in prayer. Morning prayer is an opportunity for us to focus our minds and hearts on our blessings, giving us an opportunity to praise and thank the Lord, who provides abundantly for us. If we begin each morning with gratitude for the day, then this foundation of thankfulness will carry us through the day, despite what may come.
Another way that we can maintain a life of thanksgiving is to keep a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is used to document, each day, the blessings and graces given to us by God. For example, one day, it may be something as simple as, “God, I thank you for the car that I have and the food on my table.” Journal entries don’t have to be about large blessings–sometimes it’s better to acknowledge the small things. Everyday things we take for granted, such as our jobs or a bed to sleep in or even the convenience of having internet service and smartphones, are still blessings that have been provided to us by the Lord. A gratitude journal serves as a reminder that helps us to refocus our minds on the positive things in our lives, even when many things may seem to be going wrong.
Thanksgiving Day forces our nation to pause and focus on the positive, rather than the division around us. Although there is certainly a need for this time to collectively “count our blessings,” there is a greater desideratum for an increase of Christians striving to live a daily life of discipleship and thanksgiving. This habit of daily gratitude can become the catalyst that moves our individual lives from an environment focused on negativity to the tranquility fostered by a daily walk with the Prince of Peace.