Lingering on Giving Thanks

Even though we are barely in December, let’s linger a little longer at the end of November and consider thanksgiving again – the word not the holiday. Certainly, Christmas brings great reasons to be thankful. First because Jesus was born as a baby so He could grow up to be the perfect human and then pay the price of our sin by His death on the cross. Other than Easter, that’s the greatest reason any month has for being grateful.

We can also be thankful for family and friends, with whom we may spend extra time this month with parties and celebrations. We have special church services to attend that help make this season more meaningful. Yes, December brings many reasons to be thankful. But do we express our gratitude? Not only when we receive a gift from someone; but even if we don’t exchange presents with that person, do we let them know that they themselves are a meaningful gift to our lives?

My pastor said Sunday, and I’m not sure if it’s a quote or original with him, “Gratitude not expressed is ingratitude expressed!” Wow. Just stop a minute and think about that! Are we guilty of expressing ingratitude simply by saying and doing nothing?

Proverbs 17:22 NIV states: A cheerful heart is good medicine. Other translations use a happy, joyful or glad heart or disposition. Listen to the Amplified, A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing. Who doesn’t want that?

I would venture to say that we could substitute a thankful heart does the same thing. Simply think of the worries and problems we don’t consider when we are thankful. We don’t count what we don’t have but rather, we remember what we do have. Even the wording of the last of the sentence is positive; the negative is deleted. Notice the vast difference in the way we feel whether or not we’re counting problems or blessings. I wonder how much negative we can delete from our own lives.

Our emotions naturally perk up when listing good things happening in our lives. Like children looking forward to Christmas, we anticipate what we think about. When I have a task to do but am dreading it, thinking of how something is bound to go wrong and take twice as much time as it should, then my whole outlook on that turns dim and dismal. It becomes burdensome. But if I tackle the same task, realizing it’s something I don’t enjoy doing but that when I finish, it will be done and I’m free of it, my mindset helps me accomplish the job successfully.

The same thing happens in our dealings with people. Some we simply enjoy being with while others may not be as enjoyable, whether it’s a personality clash, the work we do with them or other things. Certainly I’d rather visit a friend than the dentist, but I do like my dentist as a person and know my health depends on his taking care of my teeth, so I go to him. Now if I had to have a root canal, I would not be looking forward to the procedure, but I’d still not dread it and moan and complain about it because that simply doesn’t help me deal with the problem. The way we think about things can make a huge difference in our lives.

As we go into the Christmas season, let’s emphasize the reason for it in the first place and welcome it as a special time to celebrate God’s great Gift to us. Then let’s simply accept the fact that prices may be higher this year than last, so we have to adjust our shopping or our budget accordingly. We also know crowds in the stores will be heavier than usual, so we simply accept the fact rather than bemoaning it. Try to get as much enjoyment out of shopping as possible because you are buying for people you love. Remember your love for them and anticipate their joy in receiving your gift.

Be friendly with the people around you as you stand in line; it will help the time to pass faster, and what’s the use of being otherwise? Thank the store clerks for their time and effort in helping you; it will certainly brighten their day, which may be longer than normal. If each one of us could go through the month of December expressing our gratitude instead of complaining about whatever we don’t like, imagine how it would affect those around us. It could even change a life. Our own!