The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:20 (NIV)

From the promise to the stable, God’s plan unfolded just as spoken. God’s goodness toward you is unceasing. Isaiah 43:1 says, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name and you are mine.’

Those praises were a long time coming. For ages, God’s people had been promised a Messiah—a Rescuer, a Redeemer. For generations they waited. And when He did come, it was quietly and meekly.

God’s favor was on the unsuspecting shepherds who guarded their flocks in the dark. They existed in the margins and were society’s outcasts; living with livestock. But the angel did not mince words; there was no doubt this announcement was for them. “Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you…” (Luke 2:11).

My parents made the holidays so incredibly festive and memorable. They worked hard to create and foster family traditions. They found great joy in large gatherings, Christmas dinners, and plenty of surprises under the tree. We have lots of great memories and home movies to prove it. However, it is not lost on me that the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was raising me in a Christian home.

“If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” These words, spoken by Jesus while defending the lavishly intimate actions of an impure woman, arrested my attention. I’ve been thinking about gratitude lately and have noticed it’s easier for me to bemoan what I lack than to express gratitude for what I have. Despite my efforts to be more thankful, my gratitude meter often still needs a realignment.

How exactly do we go about cultivating a more grateful heart? Jesus seemed to think gratitude was linked to forgiveness.