Thanksgiving: A Time for Family, Gratitude, and Holiday Cheer

“He who brings an offering of praise and thanksgiving honors and glorifies Me; and he who orders his way aright [who prepares the way that I may show him], to him I will demonstrate the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23, AMPC)

The Rush of the Holiday Season

Newscasters and media hosts urge us to begin gathering our gifts early this year. Frantic shoppers sweep the shelves of high-demand toys and tech. Though the Christmas creep has brought end-of-year ads into autumn for over a decade, this year the consumers seem driven to respond.

What if we skip Thanksgiving? Would it cheer our weary, downcast souls to rush straight into Christmas?

The Heart of Giving: Motivation Matters

Scripture cites an entire calendar of rituals entered upon giving to God. Law and cultural pressure compelled acts of hospitality, caring for family, and supporting the poor. These practices began as acts of worship but soon became rote and meaningless to many.

Like the ancients, we can give to God and others from our hearts or a mindset of obligation. “Get to” versus “got to” hinges upon motivation. Why we give determines whether our offering rewards us in return.

For this reason, Thanksgiving deserves our full observation. Though the ancients never held American feasts of turkey, sportscasters, and pie, the Lord emphasized the critical importance of celebrating gratitude throughout scripture. We experience no joy in obligatory giving. Intimacy with God and others requires gratitude and an investment of our hearts. For unless we offer in praise and thanksgiving, the reward of our giving vanishes in smoke.

The Most Rewarding Gift: Gratitude and Worship

Many pastors and theologians assure us we cannot outgive the Lord. If we offer the Lord our full praise and gratitude, the change within us transforms how we experience life. Our greatest and most rewarding gift, as cited throughout scripture, remains worship with heartfelt gratitude.

The exiled Psalmist emphasizes the incredible truth behind this rewarding way to give our hearts to the Lord. Though this verse is often cited out of context to describe God’s ability to provide for us, the intent shows how much the Lord values an opportunity to bless us with connection and joy more than our ritualistic acts of duty.

“I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.

 I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?

‘Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
 and call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me …

Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
and to the blameless I will show my salvation.” – Psalm 50:8-15,23, NIV

Thankfulness delivers us from despair and fretting. The Lord grants us his grace, but we can only see and receive it if we look through grateful eyes. Jesus remains with us always, yet we must choose to focus on him to experience his presence.

The Most Rewarding Gift: Gratitude and Worship

Thanksgiving opens the door to celebrating the Lord’s gift of a Messiah.

What are you most grateful for right now? List every person and blessing in your life. Remember God’s grace above all else, particularly the fact of eternal life at your choice to declare Jesus as Lord.

Don’t forget basic functions which you depend upon for living, like senses and physical functions. Can you see or hear or taste or touch? Can you walk, move your fingers, or speak? Do you have shelter, water, and food for today?

Write and verbalize your gratitude to the Lord. After only fifteen minutes of sincere praise and thanksgiving, notice how you feel. Thanksgiving rewards us by transforming our souls. We find renewed life centered in joy and awareness of God’s loving presence.

From this blessing of thanksgiving, we can share joyfully with others. Every day becomes Christmas when we participate in the most rewarding gift.

I pray gratitude and awareness of Christ’s loving faithfulness bless you this Thanksgiving and always.

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