As we come together with family and friends in the holiday season, we often thank God for being so blessed. We thank God for our homes, a warm fire, our preferred friends and family, that new car, our place out by the lake, our income — you get the idea.

But are these what the Bible calls blessings? Do these things make us “blessed?” Perhaps these are simply conveniences of the privilege of our place of birth or our inherited intelligence, talents or fortunes.

When speaking to the early church, Paul asked, “Are there any rich among us, any wise, any well placed?” The answer was “no” or hardly any. Were they not blessed?

Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 5: “Blessed are the poor … the meek … the merciful … the pure in heart … those willing to suffer ridicule or persecution for right … those whose very passion is to be right with God … peacemakers…” Are we blessed?

Are we thankful to God because God has shown us how desperately we need God? Are we poor in spirit?

Are we thankful because God has revealed how great God’s love is for us, but also how far from God’s dream for us we really are? Are we meek?

Are we thankful because by God’s grace we are able to forgive those who have wronged us and care for those in need? Are we merciful?

Are we thankful this year that God has put such hunger in our hearts for God that God is our passion — that God is the delight of our hearts?

Are we thankful to God this year because we risked the criticism, ridicule, even persecution from others because by God’s grace we were willing to speak up for truth or for the right?

Are we thankful to God for Jesus’ willingness to pay the price for loving us? Are we willing to love others sacrificially, too? Even those we don’t know? Even our enemies? Are we peacemakers?

Be blessed this holiday season, understanding what true blessing is, and pray to be transformed by God’s grace into that kind of person whose life can change the world.

The Rev. Stephanie Swinnea is pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kearney.