I've started going through parts of the Anglican liturgy (the Cranmerian parts, mostly) with two of my daughters. We were doing the Gloria in Excelsis the other day and came to my favorite line: "We give thanks to thee for thy great glory..." There have been plenty of songs and, I'm sure, many sermons on this line. We praise God and thank God for who He is, not only for what He has done for us.
As I was trying to explain what is so important about this particular line, I was inspired to make a point I have never made before: We catch a small glimpse of this notion of praising God for who He is when we have a sense of thankfulness for someone we know, just for that person's being, for that person's existence. Sometimes we have this sense about a person in the past whose works we have read. It's hard to communicate this to children, especially children who have been loved and sheltered, but there is so much evil in the world, so many people who are not what they seem, who fail us and let us down, so much bad faith, that to find and know a man of integrity and greatness, to be able to admire someone, brings a sense of enormous relief. The mind and the heart rest in the sense that here at last is someone truly good.
If, in mere mortal human beings, sinners like ourselves, we can find greatness, if we can feel gratitude for their character and for our opportunity to know them or even just to know of them and to be refreshed by the knowing, how much more is this true of God Himself, the source of all goodness?
And so the mind moves upward from the creature to the Creator, and we say with the church throughout the ages, "We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory."