A Season of Thanksgiving: Be Sure to Thank People Too!

Part 4 of series:
Thanksgiving: Not Just a Day, But a Season

A Season of Thanksgiving: Be Sure to Thank People Too!

The steeple of Memorial Church at Harvard

I’ll never forget something I heard at the baccalaureate service that was part of my graduation from college. As I sat in the Memorial Church of Harvard University, the President of Radcliffe College (part of Harvard) said something like, “The baccalaureate service is a traditional ceremony of thanks and praise.” Wow, I thought, that’s surprisingly good! But then the President continued, “So, on this day, we keep the tradition of baccalaureate by thanking you for being part of this university and praising you for your outstanding achievements.” Oops! She got the thanks and praise part right, but rather confused who receives them. The traditional baccalaureate service features thanks and praise to God, not the graduates!

Similarly, the primary purpose of Thanksgiving Day is to express gratitude to God for his many gifts. Although sometimes this gets forgotten in our secular culture today, still most people realize that our thanksgiving should be directed primarily in God’s direction.

However, this season of year also gives us a chance to say thanks to people . We can express our gratitude to those in our lives for whom we are grateful and who sometimes don’t get to hear this from us very much. As long as I’m thanking the Lord for my wife and my children, for example, doesn’t it make sense for me to tell them?

We see an example of this sort of thing in the letters of the Apostle Paul. On several occasions he not only thanks God for his churches, but also he tells them of it. Consider Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians Christians, for example. Here we read:

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly. (1:2)

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? (3:9)

Imagine how you’d feel to hear this from someone important in your life. My guess is you’d feel honored, happy, maybe a bit embarrassed, and even thankful. It’s a wonderful thing to hear that someone is truly thankful for you. In fact, it’s one of the best feelings in life.

Thanksgiving provides a salutary occasion for saying thanks, both to the God from whom all blessings flow and to those who are conduits of divine blessings in our lives. It’s a time to stop what we’re doing and say “Thank you” to the people in our lives who deserve to hear this from us. Even if you manage to thank only one other person this Thanksgiving, that small gesture can make a big difference in the life of that person.

So, may I encourage you to use the occasion of Thanksgiving to thank the people in your life who matter to you. Tell them that you’re thankful for them. Drop someone a note. Or make a short phone call. If they’re under twenty, you can even text them! Telling people that you’re thankful for them will enrich your life as well as the lives of those for whom you are grateful.

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  • Evan


    Ouch. That “thanks and praise” anecdote is right up there with your nephew thanking the Indians. All that is missing is the President of Radcliffe concluding by saying, “What?”

    It is very sad that it generally seems that the higher one goes in academia, the further one drifts from the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. The side effects spill over into all aspects of life, so that you correctly note that if a President worded a Thanksgiving proclamation the way Washington or Lincoln did, they would be villified in the elite media. This viewpoint infects the highest legal and judicial thinking as well. Yet whether such folks like it or not, the entire underpinning of the American form of government is a theological statement that was deemed so obvious that no reasonable debate could be had about it: that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. On that basis, breaking the ties to Great Britain was justified and proper, and the undertaking of We the People to form a more perfect union had its foundation. I am very dismayed by the incredible lengths many elites go to so that they may avoid even a passing acknowledgement to the Most High, much less the rights and blessing He has bestowed.

    Little children do not put on such airs. It makes sense that Jesus said that we had to be like them to enter the Kingdom of God. And it surely explains what Paul notes in 1 Cor 1:

    26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

    To paraphrase Jesus, what good is my doctorate if I lose my eternal soul? If I am considered an idiot and a fool by my professors and the legal and media elites, so be it. As Paul also said there: 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.


  • Anonymous

    Indeed. I thank God for those who have earned high status in academic and are still faithful Christians, such as Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University.

  • Jason

    Mark, your blog and picture remind me of the first time I was in Memorial Church at Harvard in the mid ’80s.  It was a student led tour, and the nice fellow was telling twenty or so of us visitors about the church and the history of the building, etc.  I was looking around and couldn’t figure out what seemed so odd about the place.  I had been in hundreds of churches, in numerous countries, but something about this place….  Suddenly I blurted it out, “Is there a cross anywhere in here?!”

    Our guide seemed unprepared for the question, but immediately everyone was looking all over for the most familiar sign of a Christian church.  “It’s got to be around here somewhere,” someone said.  “I guess I’ve never noticed one way or the other,” said the guide.  After several moments spent with twenty sets of eyes scanning nervously for any hint of a cross, the guide finally had a flash of inspiration: “I’m sure there’s one on the steeple!”  That was all it took to cause an immediate rush outside as we all stepped away from the church to get a look.  Imagine our sense of curiosity slowly gelling into sober realization as we stared up to see that Harvard’s Memorial Church steeple was topped with… a weather vane.  Go Tigers.  😉 

    P.S.  Though I believe there is still no cross on the steeple, I’m told there might be a cross or two inside the place these days; how daring!  🙂

  • Anonymous

    Jason, I think there is a small cross carved into the woodwork above the chancel. That’s what I remember, and you can see it in this photo:


    I also think a portable cross was brought into the church for Christian worship services. Still, your point is a good one.