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! (Photo: The steeple of Memorial
Church at Harvard University.)
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 most of all in God’s direction.
However, this season of year also gives us a chance to say thanks to
others. We can express our gratitude to the people 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, my children, etc.
etc., doesn’t it make sense 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 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 people 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.