Here, in the United States, families all over the nation will be gathering together on Thursday, November 28th, settling down to huge feasts of roasted turkey, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and corn pudding. It’s a day of feasting, of American football, and of course, a day to express our THANKS and GRATITUDE to ALMIGHTY GOD for another year of bountiful harvest. Churches and faith organizations around the nation will be holding massive turkey dinners for the homeless and the poor, so that even the marginalized in our society can participate in this annual feast.
How did the American Thanksgiving Feast begin? In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of Christian separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World. After a treacherous and uncomfortable crossing that lasted 66 days, they dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month later, the Mayflower crossed Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village at Plymouth.
Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease. Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers and crew lived to see their first New England spring. In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore, where they received an astonishing visit from an Abenaki Indian who greeted them in English .
Several days later, he returned with another Native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery. Squanto’s story is quite remarkable! Christian Friars later helped Squanto escape slavery where he worked as a stable boy in London for 5 years waiting for a ship to take him back to the coast of North America, back to his family and his homeland. Sadly, upon his return, Squanto found his family and most of his tribe dead, killed off, possibly, by hepatitis or smallpox. Alone, with tragedy striking his life once again, he walked out of the woods that day to greet the Pilgrims, speaking the King’s English. Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. Squanto knew how to get eels out of the muddy streams. He knew where the lobsters were and where the fish were. He knew everything. And the Lord used him truly miraculously. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years. Squanto’s appearance was not just a “coincidence”, his appearance is yet another example of the way that God is always working behind the scenes for the good of His people. Here we have a young Native American who just happened to speak English (a miracle in itself) after being rescued by Christian Friars..living in the exact spot where the Pilgrims landed, and very willing to teach them how to survive in the the “new land”, to which they had escaped in order that they might worship Jesus Christ in FREEDOM. The pilgrim’s success was the beginning of a “new nation” (USA), one in which, in-spite of its faults, would later prove instrumental in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world and in supporting the Jewish resettlement back into their ancient homeland.
There is no such thing as a coincidence. God is FULLY in control.
In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress designated one or more days of thanksgiving a year, and in 1789 George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States. In 1863, President Lincoln, recognizing the Providential Hand of God in establishing and protecting the nation from the ravages of civil war, issued the first official Thanksgiving proclamation establishing the final Thursday in November as the day of Thanksgiving.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” (civil war) and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November.
This year, as American families sit down to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal, our prayer is that we can put political differences aside, and REMEMBER and be THANKFUL for all of the lives that were lost, all of the blood that was shed and all of the sacrifices that have been made to establish a unified American nation, the land of the Free and the home of the Brave. Americans have taken this nation for granted, ASSUMING that it will always be here. Abe Lincoln’s Proclamation was an appeal to unify a divided nation acknowledging that, even at that time, Americans had forgotten the God of the Bible. Today, it is even worse in that Americans have not only forgotten God, we have purposely kicked Him out of our government institutions, schools, media, and military. We have somehow morphed the phrase “Freedom OF Religion”..to “Freedom FROM Religion…and yet we (either consciously or sub-consciously) EXPECT God’s Hand of protection to remain on this nation. As we watch the cold, hateful rhetoric in Washington DC and in the National media, pitting republicans against democrats, dividing families and communities, we need to REMEMBER that America experienced a CIVIL WAR once before. Do we REALLY want another? Jesus told us that a DIVIDED NATION cannot stand. The potential for another civil war is right at our doorstep. Both sides should be demanding that our politicians and media personalities STOP the hateful, vitriolic rhetoric and WORK TOGETHER as ONE NATION….that is…if we want our country to continue to exist.
Has the United States been perfect? No...there have been civil rights violations, there was slavery, racism, greed and corruption. No nation established and ruled by fallen mankind is perfect, and eventually, ALL nations will FALL, and only One will be the Kingdom over all….the Kingdom of God. Unlike ALL of man’s kingdoms and governments, God’s Kingdom will be fair, just, and FREE for ALL people. Unlike man’s kingdoms, those who want to be first in the Kingdom, must be last. The Greatest must be servants. It will be a slice of Heaven on earth.
While we wait for the Blessed Hope of the Rapture and the return of our Savior Jesus Christ, let us come together this Thanksgiving, in the same spirit of unity that was spoken of by Abraham Lincoln, to share a meal, share LOVE..and pray for the wounds of this nation to once again be healed. We also give thanks for Christian fellowship all over the world and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in other nations, to experience God’s love, joy, and peace, and to be able to worship our God in FREEDOM!
God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!