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The power of gratitude on Black Friday

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Today is “Black Friday,” that infamous wall-to-wall 24/7 feeding frenzy that turns stores into boxing rings and shopping into a martial art. Then there’s online shopping, which took in more than $2 billion yesterday. As our culture descends into the maelstrom of materialism, let’s note that the Christmas season officially begins every year on Black Friday. And let’s remember that the One who was born in a manger died on a cross.

I love the holiday season. However, Jesus didn’t come so we could celebrate Christmas, but so we could experience Easter. Good Friday was the true Black Friday that became good because of grace.

Let’s conclude this Thanksgiving week by considering the connection between gratitude and grace. I’ve chosen author Anne Lamott to be our guide. Her parents were atheists, but she and her siblings have been following Jesus for decades. As a result, she says, “someone at our holiday tables always ends up saying grace.”

Why? Lamott explains: “I think we’re in it for the pause, the quiet thanks for love and for our blessings, before the shoveling begins. For a minute, our stations are tuned to a broader, richer radius. We’re acknowledging that this food didn’t just magically appear: Someone grew it, ground it, bought it, baked it; wow.”

Lamott continues: “We pray to be mindful of the needs of others. We savor these moments out of time, when we are conscious of love’s presence, of Someone’s great abiding generosity to our dear and motley family, these holy moments of gratitude. And that is grace.”

Anne Lamott is on to something that matters long after yesterday’s quiet holiday fades into the cacophony that is the Christmas season. All week we’ve explored reasons why God calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We’ve learned that thanksgiving encourages our humility, increases our faith, and provides a wonderful opportunity for witness.

Let’s close with one more fact: gratitude empowers our service.

When we give thanks to someone for something, we implicitly acknowledge that we owe them this debt of gratitude. We give thanks not for what we earn but for what we don’t. And we want to repay our benefactor for the kindness we receive.

The way we repay God for his grace is by paying it forward to those who need what we have received. As Lamott notes, “We pray to be mindful of the needs of others.” We give thanks for our food because we know we do not deserve what so many do not have. We give thanks for our family because we recognize the fragile grace that binds us together. We give thanks for our blessings precisely because they are blessings. And we are moved to give what has been given to us.

I don’t know a more powerful motive for service than gratitude. Guilt fades; fear can be conquered; but grace received will always be grace. Paul served Jesus because he could never forget what Jesus did for him: “‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15, NLT).

Your last sin forgiven should motivate your next service rendered. When you “count your many blessings,” you’ll want to be a person someone else names when they count theirs.

And that’s reason for thanksgiving all year long.