This is why each year I have a strict no Christmas until after Thanksgiving rule in my house! No Christmas music, no decorations, no watching Elf or Muppet Christmas Carol, none of that! It is not until the day after Thanksgiving, when the rest of the nation is trampling each other for hot deals, that I put on Christmas music and my wife and I decorate the house. I usually even scold my friends and family who are preempting Thanksgiving with Christmas. This year, however, I have told several people that I’m being more lax with that rule.
This year has been tough for many reasons and if someone wants to bring light and joy and cheer into their life a little early, then who am I to poo-poo that? I will, however, say that this year, more than almost any year I can remember, we need Thanksgiving!
A study done in 2019 (back in the before times) showed a connection between gratitude and benefits to health. Better sleep, more exercise, reduced physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, all of these things and a host of others are linked to showing gratitude.*. I don’t know about you, but since March I’ve been sleeping poorly, exercising much less, had my blood pressure rise, and just generally felt worse. So something that counteracts all of those things, sounds wonderful right now… and that thing is gratitude.
Thanksgiving, literally a holiday about giving thanks, is exactly what we need right now. Taking some time to look at our lives and show gratitude for the plethora of blessings we have. Now, it’s going to be work. I know that throughout the last 8 months I’ve been reminded more about what I’ve lost than what I still have… and for many of you, I’m sure that Thanksgiving looks much different this year. Usually Ellen and I have to decide between 4 different Thanksgiving celebrations to go to just between our families, but this year we’re not going to see any of them in person. It’s easy to focus on the negatives, on what’s been taken away, but that’s exactly why we need Thanksgiving.
In Ephesians Paul says, “give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything…” and again in 1 Thessalonians he says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”** I’m not sure if Paul knew the science behind gratitude, but his words speak to us right where we are.
We need to stop focusing on the things we’ve lost, the people we can’t see in person, the activities that we love that we can no longer do, and instead look at all of the amazing things still in our lives. I can’t speak for everyone, but just making a short list, I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I’m blessed with: my life and health (these were both in question in August), my beautiful amazing wonderful wife, the roof over my head, a job that allows me to work during a pandemic, my family and friends, finding new ways to connect with meaningful people, and much much more. Your blessings might look different from mine, but they’re still there.
Let us take the time this week to focus not on what we’re missing this year, but on what we have. To count our blessings and truly be grateful for them… or to steal a line from a movie that none of us should be watching yet, also known as, my favorite Christmas movie “Yes, and every night will end and every day will start with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart.”***
I hope you have a happy and thankful Thanksgiving.