Long before our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed and designated Thanksgiving an official national holiday in the 19th century, the founders of our country held similar celebrations about this time of year. As a matter of fact, it was on a Thursday, November 29, 1623 that Governor William Bradford called the people of Plymouth, Massachusetts together for one of the earliest feast celebrations dedicated to thanksgiving to God. His proclamation that day was very clear and precise:
Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest… and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and…has spared us from pestilence and disease, and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims…render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
Perhaps we should contemplate what we are truly thankful for as the years pass by but I think that is actually irrelevant when we thoughtfully consider Governor Bradford’s words to the people of Plymouth who attended the feast back in 1623. In essence he was calling on them to give thanks to God. Many people will rise to the first challenge- i.e. for what they are thankful – but fall flat on who to thank. Perhaps if they cooked the majority of the meal they may give thanks that they had the energy to accomplish that feat alone. This means you would basically give yourself a pat on the back, flop on the couch, and finish up the day vegging in front of the Thanksgiving Day Football Game. I’m not saying that is evil or wrong but perhaps focusing on what we should be thankful for is simply too shallow and sidesteps the true reason for those early pilgrims gratitude during these feasts on through the centuries.
In God’s word, Apostle Paul wrote scripture which explains that “although [people] once knew God they neither glorified Him anymore as God nor gave thanks to Him. As a result, their thinking became futile (vainglorious) and their foolish hearts were darkened”(Romans 1:21). Ignoring thanksgiving to God is the first step on a path away from Him and that path’s end is disaster according to the scripture in the first chapter of Romans.
Will you spend this Thanksgiving only giving thanks for God’s gifts without giving thanks to God ? His greatest spiritual blessing was forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life in Heaven. Jesus Himself said that “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). You see, “Christ died for sins, once, for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus paid the debt that you could never pay, even as you are now, then arose from the grave and ascended to Heaven in promising to send His Holy Spirit which would give each and everyone of us access to the throne of God. Jesus gave us all the opportunity to believe and to trust His sacrifice for us and faced torture and death to complete it. Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?
If you know Christ as your Savior, your prayer of thanks could be like the Apostle Paul’s: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
This year let’s change a habit that we have all practiced for much too long and start thanking the giver of the bounty we enjoy every day of every year. Gratitude to Someone- the Almighty God- makes sense and keeps us humble before Him. All our blessings, whether they are physical or spiritual, come from God who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17) and “daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (Psalms 68:19). Have a blessed Thanksgiving Day ! !
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