Barely surviving their first winter, these settlers knew a much harder life than most of us could imagine. After their first harvest, Governor William Bradford designated a day for thanksgiving and prayer.
This day would later become an official part of our national life.
Despite the many troubling changes in our nation and world, I thank God that we continue to acknowledge a day of thanksgiving.
But if we observe Thanksgiving, whom should we thank?
Should we thank ourselves? Do we thank our lucky stars? Do we thank some kind of impersonal spiritual force?
I fear that at a deeper level many identify with Bart Simpson’s grace before meals:
“Dear God, we paid for all this ourselves, so thanks for nothing.” We are wise to remember that, “rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant” (Os Guinness).
According to our first President,
Thanksgiving is: “… to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country …” (George Washington, October 3, 1789).
An ancient Jewish saying
“He that gets enjoyment out of the world without giving thanks, has committed a sacrilege; he has defrauded the Lord.”
God shed his amazing grace on our nation. How can we fail to come before him in humble thanksgiving? This was the original purpose of Thanksgiving.
Let’s join with the psalmist, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).