We live in a world where Black Friday creeps closer toward Thanksgiving each year, bleeding want and desire into a day that is meant to celebrate all of the gifts with which we’ve already been blessed.
This past Sunday, our Immanuel family broke away from the often-overwhelming grips of living in a society where events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday try to stomp on Thanksgiving by reflecting on the past year and then candidly sharing that for which we were thankful.
That powerful service inspired Immanuel blogger Anita to write about the importance of gratitude in our lives; and in doing so, she issued us an encouraging challenge that she was once given years ago:
“Before you make your Christmas list take time to make your Thanksgiving list.”
Instead of silencing the expression of our thankful hearts with the closing of the service, she asked us to consider taking time on Thanksgiving and the days leading up to write five blessings each morning in an attempt to move ourselves more toward living lives of thanksgiving.
But why? Why is the expression of our gratitude so important?
Last week before the Thanksgiving service, Pastor Joe encouraged us to read Luke 17: 11-18, a story detailing Jesus’ encounter with ten lepers. In the verses, we find that He graciously healed all ten lepers, but, Pastor Joe pointed out, we only hear details about one of the ten.
“Only one came back to thank Jesus,” Pastor Joe said. “Only one. Ten were healed, but only one thanked Him. I once heard that gratitude is only as sincere as the effort we make to express it. The Bible teaches that it’s not enough to be grateful in our hearts, that we should be going out of our way to express it. It may have been that all ten lepers had gratitude, but Jesus talks about the one who was sincere in his effort to express it — the one who went out of his way to express it.”
Many of us went out of our way to express our thankfulness to God this past Sunday at the Thanksgiving service. But perhaps that’s only where our expression of gratitude should begin!
Perhaps our next steps in living a life of gratitude begin with making a Thanksgiving list as Anita challenged us. Pastor Joe shared that his family is taking the challenge.
“Before we look at any ads or Black Friday sales, we’re going to spend time on Thanksgivings looking at our Thanksgiving Lists,” Pastor Joe said. “It is my hope that the people of Immanuel will spend time looking at theirs, too.”
It seems so simple, yet taking those few moments from our days to go out of our way and give thanks for what we’ve been given is so important: not only have we seen the power of expressed gratitude during our Thanksgiving service, but we also see its power in the Word as Jesus shares the story about the one leper who came back to say thank you.
Here’s the thing — gratitude can live and then essentially die in the heart.
Let’s take these next few days to go out of our way to say thank you to the One who gave us All.
Will you take the Thanksgiving List challenge?
Maybe a great first step is to list five of your blessings today in the comments!