The days with family and annual traditions are fast approaching, where we look forward to sweet potato casserole and caramel cake. The decorations will come out of the closet, and we will listen to holiday songs. We will gather around the table, perhaps more than once, for special meals with loved ones. Sitting at the table before we eat, we will “say grace.”
We speak of God’s grace often in the church, not only on special occasions, but also each Lord’s Day. We speak of it each week in order to keep it at the center of our faith. Anytime we mention God’s grace, the next thought that follows is our gratitude for it. It might be the simplest way to define our faith—God’s grace and our gratitude. It can become so meaningful in our lives that it gives shape to our prayers, voice to our hopes, joy for our days, and comfort for our tears. Our gratitude for God’s grace exposes all of the goodness around us.
As we “say grace” around the table, our prayers might echo the poem by George Herbert, which begins, “Thou that hast giv’n so much to me, Give one thing more, a grateful heart.” A grateful heart helps us see the mundane and the routine differently. As an expression of our gratitude, routine gestures of kindness can reflect the beauty of a rare piece of art. The rhythms of worship or even the mundane work of a committee can embody the craftsmanship of handmade pottery. The daily routine of a family, caring for each other’s needs, can imitate the splendor of music. Gratitude can take what seems strenuous and help us to see God’s grace within it.
Gratitude is more than an emotion. It is also a practice, which is shaped by grace. We can practice gratitude individually and collectively as a church, helping us see more of God’s grace around us. As Abraham Heschel once wrote, “Mankind will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living.”
We can practice gratitude together in a way that recaptures our wonder for God’s grace.