Thanksgiving is about grace, not dessert

| November 20, 2015 | 0 Comments


Chaplain (Maj.) Scott F. Kennaugh
3rd Brigade Combat Team
25th Infantry Division

If you’re like me, you have a favorite Thanksgiving dessert, that special treat at the end of dinner, for which you either skip a second helping of dressing or wait for even longer while dinner settles.

For me, it’s mom’s pumpkin cake-roll: a log of thin pumpkin cake rolled up with buttery smooth cream cheese frosting, crushed walnuts on the outside, sliced into a spiral disk on my plate – perfect with a fresh cup of holiday blend coffee!

But there’s always that classic rule: Clean your plate to get dessert. That’s right, dessert isn’t given freely; you have to earn it.

This rule seems to carry over into much of life, the idea that we have to earn our success, that through hard work we can get what we deserve, our “just dessert” as the old expression goes.

The root of this old word, deserve, comes from the idea of worthiness or to earn by merit. We apply merit in many ways, from completing a school, to earning promotion or position, even to personal affection or self-worth. But if we get what we want through exertion and worthiness, why should we be thankful? What is the place of the Thanksgiving holiday if we are only celebrating our accomplishments?

Maybe since dessert comes at the end of dinner, we should back up to the beginning of dinner, where we say “grace.”

Thanksgiving dinner traditionally starts – at least the eating part – with the head of the family saying grace, a brief prayer for the food prepared and received, gratitude for the gathering of family and friends, the request for future health and blessing. In contrast to the idea of desert, this grace carries the sense that we are receiving what we have not earned or do not deserve.

Granted, from your job you earned the paycheck to buy the turkey on the table. But have you truly earned good health, merited the love of family or through exertion gained the joy of the celebration? If we have these things undeservedly, through grace, then we can express genuine thanksgiving.

You can think of grace and thanksgiving as flowing in three directions. One is vertical, between God and you. Two is horizontal, between you and other people.

In the first sense, God provides for your needs because he loves you. He takes the initiative by grace, and you respond with thanksgiving.

In another direction, someone initiates with you, they show the grace of friendship or genuine concern, and you respond with thanksgiving and a return of the kindness. And for your part, you initiate and show grace in someone else’s life, and they respond in thanksgiving.

Take time to reflect on these directions of grace this Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for? What grace has someone else shown you that brings a sense of thanksgiving? What are you doing to show grace to someone else, to bless him or her in a way they could not earn from you?

These are the golden rules of life, and it’s how we know that, rather than dessert, Thanksgiving really is about grace.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, News

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