I say this every year, but I’ll say it again: if you really want to express your gratitude, make the focus be who you are thanking, rather than what you are thankful for. You see, the real purpose of thanksgiving is to thank God, period. It’s about God. When we make those long lists of all the things we’re thankful for, it starts to be about us. And that is backwards.
Remember the Pharisee who prayed in the temple? He was loudly proclaiming what he was thankful for. “I thank you that I am better than this tax collector over here…” (Luke 18:9-14, my paraphrase). And yet, it was the other guy, that tax collector in the corner, who went home justified, or ‘made right.’
So this Thanksgiving, give thanks to God. Don’t let the gravy get cold while you force everyone around the table to say what they are most thankful for. Keep the lists short. In fact, that little children’s prayer might be just enough:
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing;
Thank you, God, for everything. Amen.