When I hear the word “Thanksgiving,” of course I think of turkey and mashed potatoes. Maybe a little Black Friday shopping. Maybe some pilgrims and some corn. It’s easy to associate the holiday with football games and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I even think of the National Dog Show sponsored by Purina that my family inevitably watches as we leave the TV on after the parade and begin to cook.
When I think of thanksgiving in the Bible, my Sunday school memory drums up the Psalm based song:
“I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart. I will enter his courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad.”
Thanksgiving is easily connected with praise. When we enter God’s presence, when we rest there, and when we gaze at what He did for us through His Son, how could we not praise Him with the utmost gratitude? How could we not thank Him with everlasting praise?
It’s a strong reminder to take time and rest in the peace of God’s presence and marvel at the beauty of who He is. In that praise, there’s pause for reflection, remembrance, gratitude and prayer.
Thanksgiving is also associated with prayer.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church put it well when he said we need to thank God for the outcome of our prayers – whatever it may be – whether we like it or not – we are to thank Him for what He is about to do, because in thanking Him for the outcome, we surrender our prayers to God to do with what He will.
And that’s when the peace we can’t wrap our heads around enters in to guard our hearts.
It’s through thanksgiving that we’re able to pray, receive peace, and offer praise. It’s through thankful reflection that we’re able to commune intimately and connect with God.
And when we don’t feel grateful, when we don’t know what to be thankful for, we can look at Christ and remember what He did.
Jean Baptiste Massieu said “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” When we’re at a loss, we can remember Christ’s actions with thankfulness. We can experience the peace that comes from of His redemptive sacrifice and the hope that comes in His joyful victory. We can shout with praise at the memory and promise of His unfailing love because by His grace we will enter His gates with thanksgiving. We can rejoice for He has made us glad!