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.