I think I've said this before. Thanksgiving seems to be crowded out by Halloween and Christmas (secular version). My hubby has been on a renegade mission at work to make sure it's not forgotten, so he decorated his little corner of the building with Thanksgiving decorations to remind others to give thanks. Now, you have to admit that people, who don't have a faith in God of some sort, would not understand the importance of being thankful. After all, who in the world does an atheist or humanist thank? Should they say, "Thank Me for all that I have because I've worked so hard"? Otherwise, the holiday has been reduced to turkeys and football when it comes to any secular acknowledgment of Thanksgiving. At least some stores will be closed, but the emphasis for retail is on Black Friday sales and Christmas shoppers. So, why are Christians so adamant about celebrating Thanksgiving? Image from Askideas.com.
Main Passage: Psalm 95
O, Lord , truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord. Psalm 116:16-17 NKJV
Thanksgiving is a day of remembering struggle and tragedy for those seeking religious freedom.
We don't understand today what it means to suffer. The pilgrims, a group of Separatists wanting to worship God in their understanding of the Bible and to escape the tyranny of King James I (the son of Mary Queen of Scots) by refusing to give allegiance to the Church of England, decided to leave for a New Land. The King essentially said good riddance to them and told them where they may settle in the Americas. They set sail on the Mayflower along with the ship Speedwell, which contained passengers who did not share their religious thought. The Mayflower had to take the passengers from the leaky Speedwell early on, so they were cramped into close quarters and seriously delayed. Due to the delay with the Speedwell's problems, they left later to endure heavy storms on the open seas. Needless to say, they lost about half of the passengers by the time they landed at Plymouth, 600 miles off course from their original target of Virginia.This journey cost them their homes, the lives of many family and friends, and meant hardship for them when they landed. Do you see anything in our current Thanksgiving celebrations that depicts what these brave people endured? image from Mayflowerhistory.com.
Thanksgiving is a day of remembering God's miraculous provision.
First, a wealthy merchant advanced the fare for their passage to make the historic journey to religious freedom. Second, in the midst of struggle and tragedy, God's hand protected and provided for them. Even though half of the people died on the trip, God provided a large screw to hold the Mayflower together. Yes, a large iron screw for a possible printing press! They would be in serious danger if it were known they could be printing Bibles, because of the martyrdom of William Tynesdale almost a century earlier who had translated the Bible in the common language of the time. This persecution was still very real for them. In one of the storms, the main beam of the ship buckled and cracked, threatening to cause them sure peril. A large iron screw the Separatists brought with them to make a printing press in the new land was used to patch the support beam and a post together to finish their journey. Third, they landed in Cape Cod, an abandoned place from previous mariners, where they would set up their own government system free of interference from England. Fourth, when the Indians came to their settlement, they learned valuable skills to live in their new home. It is often through tragedy and struggle people are able to see the hand of God in their lives. Are we able to see God's miraculous provision and protection in our own lives today? Image from www.familyhistoryresearchbyjody.blogspot.com.
Thanksgiving is a day of cultures coming together in harmony.
The new settlers needed food in the harsh environment and God provided it. They found corn, usually used as feed for animals in England, but was found to be valuable to avoid starvation. They first encountered angry natives because graves were opened with provisions taken from them. The Indians believed the deceased would need them in the next life.While having struggles with the local natives before settling into their colony, God brought an Indian who converted to Christianity and spoke English named Squanto. He had been taken as a slave to England, learned English and became a Christian. When He arrived back in New England, he was an advocate for the new settlers and translated for them with the Wampanoag. The Wampanoag celebrated a type of thanksgiving to the Creator, as they believed. They helped the settlers with fishing and planting since they were not accustomed to living in the new land. God had provided for them and built relations with people who would have otherwise been hostile to them through Squanto, and his prior experience as a slave and conversion to Christ by Spanish monks. Do we celebrate the diversity of people whom God created and the unique qualities each person brings to our nation?
Thanksgiving is day of celebrating God's blessings to us.
We have indeed received blessings from God as individuals and a nation. As individuals, we have the opportunity to find freedom and life in Jesus Christ. Just as Squanto learned of his freedom in Christ as a former slave, we can find freedom in Jesus. That is reason enough to give thanks to God! We can be free from the slavery of commercialism and what's in it for us. It is in this relationship we are blessed by God. In return, giving thanks is honestly a small thing we can do for Him.Those who do not know Jesus have been blinded by the god of this age. By letting our light shine at Thanksgiving, we may influence someone to know Jesus as Savior. That would be a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving!
The United States was founded for religious freedom, in other words, to practice our faith openly without penalty, as the Calvinists, Anabaptists, and other groups who broke away from a corrupt State church. We must stop thinking of ourselves as a Christian nation, but a place where we can express our faith openly before it is too late. Even with the social pressures we face, it pales in comparison to what our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries endure and lay down their lives for our Savior. America was christianized because our forefathers claimed a faith, but really they proclaimed religious liberty for all people. God has indeed blessed us with the freedom to worship God in the customs and traditions we hold dear. Giving thanks for this freedom, which so many laid down their lives through history, is cause to celebrate. Let us give thanks to our God for He is good!
May you have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!
What are you thankful for? Please, share in the comments below.