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Giving Thanks Each Day

I have always found it interesting how quickly our culture moves from Thanksgiving to the Christmas Shopping Season and days like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. We start by giving thanks for what we have and then almost immediately begin thinking about what we need  (or want!) -- to the point that numerous stores are even open on Thanksgiving Day this year for an early start to their big sales (and send out emails ahead of Thanksgiving about what their sales will look like)!

The Call To Give Thanks Continually

While it might seem like our culture cannot even take one whole day to give thanks, the Christian life is one that calls for continual thanksgiving. We see this theme of thanksgiving in places like 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says “give thanks in all circumstances,” in numerous Psalms (e.g. Psalms 95:2; 100:4; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1; 136:1), and in the example of the Apostle Paul who begins many of his letters noting that he always gives thanks for the members of the church to which he is writing (see Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). An application of Paul’s example would be to give thanks for the Christian community God has placed you in, but I wanted to point out another issue related to thanksgiving that comes from the Heidelberg Catechism, one of our church’s confessions of faith.

Thankful for the Heidelberg Catechism!

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism states that our only comfort in life and death is that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to our Savior Jesus Christ because he has paid for our sins, set us free, and watches over us – with the result that we are to be “wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” The second question of the Catechism then asks what we need to know to live and die in the joy of this comfort.The answer talks about the need to know our guilt, God’s grace, and how to live in gratitude for his grace. These three ideas (guilt, grace, and gratitude) serve as the outline for the rest of the Catechism.

So what does a life of gratitude look like? The section of the Heidelberg Catechism that deals with gratitude (questions 86-127) describes it as a life of faith and repentance, to be sorry for our sin, and live according to the will of God by doing every kind of good work. The Catechism then looks at the Ten Commandments which show us how to live a life of gratitude (obeying them is giving thanks to God) and the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us know how to pray in accordance with God’s will and reminds us of how He provides for us. Obeying God’s commands is something that does not earn our salvation (Jesus did that!), but how we show gratitude for what Jesus did for us.

A Life Marked by Thankfulness and Gratitude

Christians celebrate Thanksgiving Day not by just having turkey and pumpkin pie or by going around the table saying what we are thankful for one time a year, but each day by inviting others to our tables, loving our neighbor as ourselves, praying that God’s kingdom might come and His will might be done on earth as it is in heaven -- in essence, “bending the world” back to the way that God intended it to be is an act of thanksgiving! This should mark our lives every day, not just for 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day. So as our culture turns away from thanksgiving, may we live into it even more deeply.

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