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Writing Divine Thank You Notes
The First Sunday of Advent (Year C)
Old Testament: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalter: Psalm 25:1-10
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Gospel: Luke 21:25-36
God of justice and peace, from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness, that all on earth may stand in awe and wonder before your marvelous deeds. Raise our heads in expectation, that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord and stand without blame before your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Writing Divine Thank You Notes
St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?”
The custom of writing thank you notes is a good and necessary one. I make it practice every week to send two or three thank you notes to parishioners for their service to Jesus Christ, his church and its mission. It is important to let people know that their contribution matters.
In today’s epistle reading, the Apostle Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians. In his letters, Paul, in all but one instance, offers thanks concerning the recipients of his letters, but he never gives thanks to them; he gives thanks for them. To the Corinthians he writes, "I thank my God always for you, because of God's grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:4).
And to the Philippians he writes, "I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I'm thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it's always a prayer full of joy" (1:3-4).
One more example from Colossians will suffice: "We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you. We've done this since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all God's people" (1:3-4).
Nowhere in his letters does Paul directly thank the recipients; instead he directly thanks God for them and their faithfulness, etc. I wonder how our thank you notes to others in service to Christ and his church would sound different if we took Paul's approach instead of what is usual and customary for us?
I am not suggesting that this style would be appropriate for all the thank yous we write. I am not sure this is a good idea when we are thanking our neighbor for the birthday gift we really don't need... "I thank God for the vintage set of record albums you bought me." But perhaps to thank others for the kingdom work they do involves the kind of thanksgiving that recognizes that while all good work is important, kingdom work takes on a greater significance. Perhaps, therefore, in those expressions of thanksgiving for kingdom work, great or small, we should thank God for those who do such work, and let them know that we do thank God for them and their commitment to God's purposes in this world.
And, frankly, when we offer our thanks in this way, we give the recipients of such thanksgiving an even greater honor in acknowledging that God is indeed using them for his work in the world. We are affirming that their faithfulness has a divine stamp.
In this season of Advent, as we prepare to worship, praise, and give thanks to God for the gift of himself in Jesus Christ, let’s make it an Advent practice to write thank you notes in the Christmas cards we send, so that others will know they are a blessing from God.
I have taken my own advice and have started writing my thank you notes in this way; and I must say, it just feels more biblical.
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