Thanksgiving As A Practice

Susan Smetzer-Anderson November 19, 2021

The wisdom of scripture and the findings of human research often dovetail in remarkable ways.

For example, consider this Harvard Health article, Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier.Researchers found that the practice of gratitude (not just the feeling) can have significant and measurable benefits. They unpack the nuances of gratitude as follows—

Gratia, the Latin root of gratitude, means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways, gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. (emph. mine)

Concretely expressing gratitude, in their view, amounts to thanksgiving. In the Bible, the practice of thanksgiving goes back millenia to early temple rites. Both the Old and New Testments exhort us to express thanksgiving through offerings (see Leviticus), or through voicing psalms, songs, and prayers that laud God’s generosity—with the rebound effect of uplifting the offerer.

Strikingly, research shows that acts of thanksgiving may have not only relational but psychological benefits, the latter of which can last up to a month. Writing thank-you notes, counting blessings, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, and meditating are commonly associated with a sense of well-being. Even saying a mental thanks can help the thanker.

At Upper House, the triune God is our scripturally illuminated “higher power.” Through God’s word, we encounter dramatic examples of thanksgiving—stories that extend from the wanderings of Abraham in Genesis to the City of God in Revelation. There God’s angels are pictured encircling an eternal throne, singing praise and, get this, thanksgiving—

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever!

Amen.  (Rev. 7:11-13, NRSV)

If full-throated thanksgiving is voiced by angelic beings…If the word itself is joined with glory, wisdom, honor, power, might, and blessing to God…then thanksgiving is a practice of immeasurable worth. May we learn to practice it deliberately and without reservation.

Forever and ever. Amen.