Key Scriptures: Luke 2:1-40, Psalm 100:1-5, Philippians 4:6, Ephesians 5:20, I Chronicles 29:12-14, I Chronicles 16:8, Psalm 9:11, I Thessalonians 5:18, Romans 1:8, Philippians 1:3-6, 4:14-19
Guiding Question: How can we live a grateful life?
Optional Introductory Activity: Bring in several newspapers, news magazines. Have the students pair up and find one positive news story and one negative one. Have them highlight or list things in each story for which someone should be thankful. As the students share their responses, see if they notice any patterns.
Lesson: (Questions for the students are in bold italics.) Read Luke 2:1-40. Who are the various people mentioned who are grateful for the birth of Jesus? How do we know they were grateful? The coming of the Messiah had been promised since the fall from the Garden of Eden. The Jewish people had been waiting thousands of years for this moment – the coming of the Messiah, to restore man’s relationship with God. The Holy Spirit had let Simeon know he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Anna never left the temple but worshipped day and night and recognized Jesus was the Messiah. We get a small peak of their reactions, but how did their gratitude make them feel? How did the shepherds, Simeon and Anna express their gratitude? Whom did they thank? Even though the shepherds, Simeon and Anna appear to have been grateful without being told by someone to do so, God does command us to be thankful. Why do you think God felt it necessary to command us to be grateful? Let’s look at some verses that command us to be thankful to God and see if we can find some clues why our grateful attitude is so important:
- Psalm 100:1-5 Being grateful reminds us that God make us, we belong to Him, God is good, loves us and is faithful. Why is it important to God that we remember these important things about Him?
- Philippians 4:6 Being grateful can lessen our anxieties and remind us to pray when we feel anxious. How can we be grateful when something is making us anxious? How can being grateful remind us to not be anxious and to pray about the things that can make us anxious?
- Ephesians 5:20, I Chronicles 29:12-14 Being grateful reminds us that all of our blessings come from God, not because of something we could do without God’s blessing. It also reminds us when we think about sharing and giving we are not giving something that is ours, but is ultimately God’s. How can these verses on gratitude change the way we view our possessions and ourselves?
- I Chronicles 16:8, Psalm 9:11 – Being grateful reminds us to tell others about God. What do these verses tell us about being grateful? Will they remind us to tell others about God? Can you give some examples?
- The tricky part to God’s command to be grateful is in I Thessalonians 5:18. How tough is it to be grateful in all circumstances? How can we remember to be grateful to God no matter what is happening? Why is it so important to put a lot of effort into being grateful to God?
Paul and others modeled something else for Christians in their letters, which later became part of our New Testament. Read Roman 1:18, Romans 16:1-16, I Corinthians 16:17-18, Philippians 1:3-6, 4:14-19 Paul and others often expressed appreciation to and gratitude for many of the people in their lives. Why were they grateful to people in addition to God when all good things come from God? They knew that God gives us free choice. They can choose to obey God and do loving, caring things for others or they can choose to disobey God and not help others. By thanking and being thankful for those who were doing loving and caring things they were not only encouraging those people but also the others who would read these letters. The writers wanted Christians to be encouraged to love and server others. How do you feel when someone sincerely thanks you? Do you think the people mentioned in these verses did what they did so they would be mentioned? How might they have reacted when these letters were read in church? How can expressing our gratitude to others encourage them to do what is right – even if they aren’t Christians? Who are some of the people we need to thank? How can we remember to thank them?
Life Skills Activity: Review the main concepts in the lesson. Have each student make two quick lists. The first list should be several things for which they are thankful to God. The second list should be specific people that they want to thank. Explain to the students that at times simply saying “thank you” is a great way of showing gratitude to God and people.
At other times, a more formal expression of gratitude seems more appropriate. The writers of many of the Psalms wrote poems that were used as songs of gratitude to God. For people, a thank you note is a great way to show gratitude. A great thank you to God or people should be:
- Specific – for the item or deed that you are thankful
- Explain why – express how grateful you feel
- Express joy – besides being grateful share any positive emotions that you are feeling
- Tell what happens next – maybe you hope to see them soon or be more like them. Will their gift change your life in some way? Let the person know the positive things you hope will happen in the future because of their kindness to you.
After sharing the element of a formal “thank you” with the students have the participate in one or more of the following activities:
- Have the students create a gratitude journal where they can regularly record things for which they are grateful. Encourage them to write several items from today in their journals.
- Teach the students how to write a formal thank you note and for a job interview or mentoring experience. Have the students practice writing a sample letter. Give private feedback on format, grammar, spelling, and punctuation and most importantly content.
- Encourage the students to write a poem, prayer or song thanking God. Have those who wish to share their finished work with the other students.
Application Challenge: Pay attention this week for things that you can thank God and others for each day. Pray specifically to thank God for these blessings. Find ways to thank the people who help you in some way.
Author: Thereasa Winnett