I love the story told of a young boy from England whose pastor saw him coming to church day after day, walking up to the altar to kneel and pray. It was approaching Christmas time in 1918, and WWI had recently ended.

The pastor had a suspicion why the young boy came to pray. He was quite certain his prayers were not about what toy he wanted for Christmas but, rather, like many other children, he prayed for his father to come home safely from the war.

As the days passed, the pastor’s heart began to break for the boy because he knew if he hadn’t heard from his father by now, there was a good chance he was not coming home.

After a number of days, the pastor went to the boy, put his arm around him, and tenderly asked, “Son, are you praying for your father to come home from the war?”

The boy answered, “Oh no, my father came home, and I have been coming to pray each day to thank God for making this the best Christmas ever!”

Name them one by one

As we come to the end of another year, what gifts has the Lord given you that you are thankful for? Have you taken the time to count your blessings?

It is easy for us, in our busy, hurried journeys, to take for granted the graciousness shown to us by others and our Savior. We tend to keep a closer count of the obstacles and trials that come our way rather than our blessings.

One joyful hour

Here is my challenge to you as we enter this Christmas season and the end of another year: Carve out a quality hour where you can just reflect on the following three areas in your life as the apostle Paul, by his own example, encourages us to do.

First, contemplate the gift of Jesus in your life. As Paul considers God’s “surpassing grace,” in our lives, he says “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15, NIV). What does God’s “surpassing grace” mean to you?

Second, take time to think about those people God has put in your life to bless you. As Paul thought of those special to him, he wrote, “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Phil. 1:3–4, NIV). After you have identified those who bless you, write notes of gratitude to them.

Finally, determine to be thankful no matter what events encompass your life. Paul says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:16–18, NIV). This is easy to do when times are good and not so easy when we are surrounded by trouble.

I wish only the very best for you and your families as we look forward this season to celebrating our most treasured gift—Jesus.