What’s the Deal With Gratitude

It’s nearly Thanksgiving and we gather to celebrate with family and friends in gratitude that the Christmas season is nearly half over.

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Thanksgiving is a little strange this year, isn’t it?  A very untraditional political season of national unrest is preceding the time we move into the traditional season of stress.  A Harris poll last year showed people in this country liked the idea of gratitude but had a hard time getting their heads around it because of holiday stress.  This seems backwards on so many levels and that was LAST year. Between unrest and stress are we still thankful this year?  If we sit down with family or friends in the coming days will we claim gratitude?  Or are we cynical and disgusted with the whole state of things along with a feeling of dread about coming get togethers all the while adding a dash of stress as we prepare for Advent and Christmas?

What in the world?  That sounds absolutely horrible!  But…I don’t think I’m too far off base in asking the questions, which begs a whole lot of other questions but primarily, what is it that drives our gratitude?

If we’re honest about it we tend to be thankful for things.  We’ll overshadow that very quickly but too often it is the first thing that pops into our heads.  The second thing that usually pops into our heads when we think about what we’re thankful for is the people in our lives.  Not ALL the people necessarily but some of the people.  Am I too far off base in saying that?  I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with being grateful for family and friends.  I’m just making an observation and calling a thing what it is.

Where does gratitude for God in Christ come into our thinking?  Mind you, I’m not suggesting we’re not grateful for what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, just that it tends not to be the first thing that pops into our minds.  If it does, that’s truly great.  I think for most of us, it isn’t #1.

And hey,  I’m as guilty of it as the next person.  I can’t help but be grateful for the pies and desserts that are soon to be a large part of my evening’s enjoyment.  I knew that Sharlene and crew would be here last night to setup and so when I got here this morning the first thing I did was look under the towel on the table.  That was the forks so no joy there.  THEN I went into the kitchen and looked in the fridge.  And there were pies there!  And no, I didn’t snitch any.  Thought about it but didn’t.

Not only will there be pies soon but it is only appropriate to mention there will be a little bit of socializing whilst eating said pies and desserts.  Socializing by some very happy pie eating people.

But are pie and desserts why we are here this evening?  I suspect not.  You can go to Village Inn and get a pretty good slice of pie.  As far as that goes, many of you can make your own pretty good slice of pie (speaking of being thankful).  Not only that, many of us will likely be spending time with lots of people over the next few days so getting together for socializing doesn’t seem like the driving factor for us to be together.

It’s an interesting phenomenon we find ourselves in.  Grateful people enjoy improved mental and physical health.  But where does spiritual health play into it?  There are a fair amount of articles and studies about gratitude and mental and physical health but spiritual health doesn’t get addressed much.  I suspect that is because we aren’t always intentional about our spiritual lives and so the idea doesn’t come to the surface very much.  Kind of like being grateful for pie and socializing but finding it difficult to articulate why we’re here tonight.

So why are we here then? And I mean in a specific sense, not the generic to give God thanks sense.

Hard to say?  It is for me too and that’s where we run into trouble.  We have this great story but we struggle to tell it.  And when we do too often we fall back on the traditional things Jesus people say.

This is the story we have to figure out.  We know gratitude for things is a temporary thing.  We know gratitude for people is a temporary thing.  But what God offers is forever. How do we tell the story, the real story that brings us here on a rainy Tuesday evening for something much more that pie and conversation?  That is the question each of us must answer.

When all is said and done, our ability to be grateful comes from the forgiveness that God extends to us.  That forgiveness frees us from a whole lot of other stuff we carry around. A forgiveness that extends from as far as east is from the west

When you come to the meal on Thursday or Friday or Saturday or whatever day it is you gather, be grateful in your forgiveness.  And when you come to the meal that Christ has prepared, be grateful in your forgiveness. It is the forgiveness in Christ Jesus, extending from as far as east is from the west that is the basis for anything we could possibly be thankful for.  That’s why we’re here tonight.  Love the pie.  Love the conversation.  But it is the forgiveness in Christ that draws us here.

For that we give thanks, and glory, to God.

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