giving thanks

thanksgiving is such a lovely time of year. isn't it great to have an entire day - and season - devoted to giving thanks? an opportunity to refocus our hearts...which is especially beneficial heading into the Advent season. often, on thanksgiving, families gather around the table and take turns mentioning what they are thankful for. we list the things in our life. some possessions. others, circumstances. life's blessings: good heath, our home, our family, our jobs, friends, food. you know, the things that we post pictures of on our social media accounts with a hashtag. #blessed

but these things, the stuff we are often thankful for, those are not the blessings. not really. yes, we can be grateful for them, but life's blessings are much richer and complex. in Christ's sermon on the mount, He gave us a list of blessings. He told us the actions and spirits and behaviors and hearts that will receive blessing:

matthew 5:2-11

and He opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

how 'bout them apples? i wonder if our families would think us strange if, this time next week, we started listing our gratitude for the times when we were persecuted for righteousness' sake or for that person who despises us and does evil against us? but these are the things that bring blessing. when we are meek and hungry and thirsty and mournful and poor in spirit. God chose what is low and despised in the world to bring to nothing things that are lofty. the low will be lifted high. the poor will be rich. the crazy dynamics and economics of heaven. up is down and down is up.

and furthermore, instead of just offering up a list of things that we are thankful for. let us focus on the preposition, to. we are to be thankful to God. we cannot give thanks to nothing for something. we give thanks to someone. we don't cavalierly say, "i am thankful for...this and this and this". we give thanks to. we offer up our gift of thanks to the One who provides richly - above and beyond all that we ask or imagine. after all, thanksgiving means "the giving of thanks" and when you give something, you give it to someone identifiable. we give thanks to God for His bountiful blessings. so when you take time to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for, take time - more importantly - to reflect on the One to whom you owe thanks. all good things come down from above.

praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; praise Him, all creatures here below; praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. amen.