It occurred to me today, Thanksgiving Day 2010, that before we can be thankful we need to remember. But we remember not what we have done ourselves, but we remember things done by others to our benefit and to our advantage. Then comes gratitude for the sacrifices that others have done, often to their own disadvantage. So thanksgiving is a humbling remembrance that takes us out of ourselves and acknowledges our place in the unfolding flow of history.
William Bradford, an early governor of the Plymouth Colony in the 17th century, wrote, “We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.” (Quoted from Barbara Rainey’s book on Thanksgiving). We benefit from their sacrifice. So we should remember, appreciate and give thanks. In focusing outside ourselves with an attitude of gratitude, we maintain a humble appreciation for our welfare. This is much better that arrogant pride.
In Philip Yancy’s latest book, What Good is God, he ponders “the paradoxical trend: As the Christian faith permeates society, it tends to produce values that contradict the gospel.” For example, he notes that America is characterized around the world as a country of (1) wealth, (2) military power and (3) decadence. By contrast, the life of Jesus was characterized by (1) poverty, (2) self-sacrifice and (3) purity. Why is this the case? I think the tendency is an inevitable consequence of our assuming credit for our blessings. God blesses us and we focus on what we did to get it and deserve it. We fail to remember. We fail to acknowledge the source of our blessings. We fail to show thanks. We fall prey to arrogance and self-reliance.
In the face of that natural tendency, I want to express appreciation for the sacrifices my parents made to provide the best opportunities they could manage . . . for our soldiers overseas who risk their comforts and even their lives to provide safety and security here at home . . . for the people who, over the years, have simply gone out of their way to show caring in times of need. Ultimately I express appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ who left the comforts and joy of his intimacy with the Father to condescend in the form of a man so he could provide salvation for me. No sacrifice could be greater than that. No benefit could be more significant than that. The least I can do today (and every day) is to acknowledge this and give thanks and respond with a surrendered life.
The act of giving thanks is really a taste of heaven. The Bible tells us that when we’re there, we who have trusted Christ for our salvation will join with all the angels saying,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Rev. 7:10)