Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we Americans are encouraged to pause and give thanks to God. In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
As you may recall, in 1863 the United States was in the Civil War, a terribly brutal and emotionally horrifying experience. Thousands of young Americans had died, while others faced the prospect of imminent death. Yet, in the midst of such a challenging time, President Lincoln called upon Americans to remember the richness of God’s blessings, and to be thankful.
So it should be with us. In many ways, 2009 has not been an easy year for our nation. Economic hardships have touched millions of lives. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take thousands of men and women away from their homes, and some of these brave soldiers will never return. In countless other ways, we in this nation have struggled in 2009.
Thus we need to hear the encouragement of Abraham Lincoln again. In spite of our challenges and setbacks, we have been richly blessed by God in this country. Thanksgiving is due just as much today as it was in 1863, perhaps much more.
When we give thanks, we bring to mind God’s gifts to us. This, in turn, reminds us of God’s gracious nature. We think, not just of what God has done, but also of who God is. Thus, thanks is a point of entry to praise. In the language of Psalm 100, we enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, so that we might go into his courts with praise. There’s no biblical rule that states that thanks must come before praise. But, for many of us, thanksgiving for what God has done leads us to praise God for who he is.
So, may you enter God’s gates with thanksgiving today, so that you might celebrate in his courts with praise! May God give you a rich and blessed Thanksgiving Day!
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How is it possible to give thanks even in hard times? Does thanking God lead to praising God in your life?
PRAYER: Thank you, gracious God, for your abundant gifts to me. Thank you for giving me, not what I deserve, but so very much more. Thank you, most of all, for the gift of life you have given me through Christ. Thanks for the incredible privilege of knowing you and living my life in relationship with you, both now and forever.
All praise be to you, O God, giver of all good gifts! All praise be to you, because your grace and mercy are without end! All praise be to you for the gift of life in this world, and life forever in the age to come! All praise to you, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!