In this season we call “the holidays,” sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas, many Americans find themselves see-sawing with gratitude. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, there are subtle exhortations calling us to be thankful, while others call us to be thankless. We watch ourselves rock back and forth between gratefulness and criticism, contentedness and dissatisfaction. The holiday season seems to be broken because such a season has virtually no bearing on how our society lives the other eleven months of the year. Social media is filled, not with gratefulness, but with animosity, hostility, divisiveness, impatience, and critique. Save a few days of the year where we sprinkle in heartfelt posts, most of our social media feeds are saturated with thanklessness.
Some of us have lost all of the thanksgiving in our Thanksgiving (and the days that follow), despite what the Instagram posts might say. But the Christian need not lose heart. Holidays, despite whatever they represent culturally, are powerful opportunities for us to remember, reflect, and, most of all, to recover Christian thankfulness, propelling us into the year to come.
The same God who can make dry bones live can revive even a dead consumerist back to his glory and praise.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO GIVE THANKS?
Most of us, Christian or not, know we ought to be thankful. As Andrew Peterson poetically puts it, “Don’t you want to thank someone?” The question then becomes, How do we begin to work that thankfulness out in our lives to the praise of God’s glory and grace?
Perhaps we should go a little deeper: What does it mean to give thanks at all?
I turned to the Bible for wisdom in answering this question, and I was amazed at what I found. A quick search through the ESV Bible shows that there are well over 100 instances in which the words “give thanks,” “grateful,” “thankfulness,” or “thanksgiving” occur. But that’s not the amazing part.
What’s amazing is how these verses describe what it means to express gratitude and thankfulness. Time and time again, the biblical authors make the act of thanksgiving primarily something we say.