As with many holidays (originally Holy Days but in modern day usage has been contracted to holidays) Thanksgiving has become a largely commercial and secular time. As we consider The First Thanksgiving we see that:
The English colonists we call Pilgrims celebrated days of thanksgiving as part of their religion. But these were days of prayer, not days of feasting
Initially this was a time to spend before God, in communication with Him as a community and as individuals. The First Thanksgiving rightly points out:
Our national holiday really stems from the feast held in the autumn of 1621 by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest.
In their search for religious freedom and escape from religious persecution by the Church of England the Pilgrims first went to Holland and then to America. The trip was difficult and at the end of the voyage and first winter only 50 had survived. They celebrated with their benefactors, the Wampanoag Indians or “Eastern People.” In spite of the hardships and losses the Pilgrims viewed this as a time of celebration and thanksgiving for God’s protection and provision. Out of great loss there was great thanksgiving. Why is that? The Pilgrims had a decidedly different outlook on life than most of do today. They expected it to be hard. They didn’t expect ease and comfort. The persecution they fled wasn’t someone simply making them feel bad or guilty about being believers but about being imprisoned or even executed for rejecting the governmentally established and regulated faith. To escape that persecution they came to a land that was both dangerous and held great promise. Freedom of belief. Freedom of expression. Freedom to disagree. Of course, the specter of life threatening dangers also lurked there.
As I consider and ruminate on the history of this day I am struck by all that I have to be thankful for on this particular Thanksgiving Day. I don’t have to go out and kill and clean my next meal. We can do our “hunting” in a climate controlled environment where our biggest fears are the hunting hordes that will be lined up at the checkout ahead of us and the inconvenience of having to wait in line to pay the deals we have snagged. I have a wonderful wife to whom I have been married for 39 years. She tends to set the spiritual temperature in the home. She, as many females are, is good at relationships. Christianity is decidedly a relationship between God and man. I am thankful for all I have learned about God from her over these many years. I am thankful that Joy and I have a job, even though it takes us away from home for days at a time. It has enabled us to keep up with the bills, something which many are struggling with these days. It also allows us to continue the ministry of MCOI in most of its facets.
I am also thankful that this week the loads on our route were canceled. It allows us to be home with our kids and grandkids for this time of remembrance before the Lord Whom we serve. I am thankful that we live in what is still a free nation, where we, at least for the moment, enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the freedom to disagree, even as the Pilgrims had desired and sacrificed for. For us today will be spent as a family, enjoying one another’s company, thinking about and reminding one another of God’s provision and protection through another year. It will be a time to remember and thank Him for the salvation He has provided at great sacrifice for all those who call upon His name. We will also be thankful for our future hope and assurance of eternity with Him through the salvation which He has provided.