This week an amazing thing will happen. 323 million people—give or take a few—will pause to say thank you. Of course, the object of that thanks is up for debate, but that’s a different point for a different time. With no disrespect intended for the formation of our country of for those who have served or died for it, I must admit that of all the civic holidays we have in America, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite. I don’t know what it is. The vibe on Thanksgiving is just different from the Fourth of July or from Memorial Day. I enjoy being with family and friends and the food, but there is something more about Thanksgiving. Something that invites one to look around and take in just how much we really have. Sure, we might not have as much or have it as good as the next guy. We might not have the life we dreamed of or are dreaming of. But we have it pretty good. Really good. And as we pull back and take it all in, the proper response is to render to God the good-giver of all things, a simple thank you.
Thanksgiving is not just a civic practice but it is also at the heart of Christianity. I was struck again at how central a role it plays in the chapter in our Confession of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day (WCF 21). In paragraph three, prayer is singled out and taken up as an important element of worship. There we read,
Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of His Spirit, according to His will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.
Of course, I was struck by the first sentence. Prayer, with thanksgiving, is what is required.
As we keep reading we come to paragraph five and read this.
The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.
In addition to the word and sacraments, also important in worship are oaths, vows, times of fasting, and special occasions called for the purpose of thanksgiving. That’s how central our forefathers viewed thanksgiving to our Christian lives.
And how could we forget arguably the most central element of worship, the Lord’s supper. From the earliest days of the church this meal was called the Eucharist. The word eucharist is from the
Greek word eucharisteo meaning, “to give thanks.” The Eucharist is a thanksgiving meal. A time when, like we will do this Thursday, we look around and take stock of all the blessings we have in Christ.
Thanksgiving or gratitude is at the heart of Christian worship and it is at the heart of the Christian life. Are you grateful? Are you a thankful person? Give thanks to the Lord this day in worship and give thanks on Thursday with your family and friends for all that God has done for you, is doing, and will do.