This week, the fourth week of November, we will be celebrating the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. What a wonderful time of gathering together with family and loved ones, to give thanks. Now, this is not a Biblical festival in that it cannot be found in the Bible; nevertheless, it is one that was born in the early days of North American exploration, and has its roots in the right type of soil. Let’s look at how it became an official Holiday:
Pilgrims held their second Thanksgiving celebration in 1623 to mark the end of a long drought that had threatened the year’s harvest and prompted Governor Bradford to call for a religious fast. Days of fasting and thanksgiving on an annual or occasional basis became common practice in other New England settlements as well. 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 it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.
In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians. Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in 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” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November. (History.com, accessed 11/25/13 emphasis mine)
The early Pilgrims came to the New World in search of land they could call their own, and a place where they were free to practice their faith, rather than be forced to observe the faith of the State. In many way, we still struggle with these 2 things here in the U.S. Only now, unlike before, the attacks are mostly on the Christian faith above all else. Why is that? Because the world hates Jesus. Am I being melodramatic or pessimistic? No. I’m simply quoting scripture:
John 15:18-27 (NASB)
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.
There is much that can be said (and, in fact, is being said all over social media) about the decline of American Culture, and the fact that this nation has completely lost sight of the principles of God, that is not what this holiday is about. This holiday is about giving Thanks to God for His many blessings, and for His grace and mercy that enables us to weather the storms of life in a fallen world. Don’t let the enemy rob you of your thankfulness to God, or tempt you to complain and murmur. Throughout the Bible, thanksgiving (or thankfulness) is expressed through Praise. In fact, in many cases, it is out of our thankfulness to God that we are commanded to praise Him.
Colossians 3:12-17 (NASB)
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (emphasis mine)
We are commanded to live in a continual state of thankfulness to God. So this holiday fits well with that command. Sure there is room to slip (gluttony, strife, ungratefulness, envy, debt, etc.) but that is always there. Let us turn our hearts to God. Remember the trials He has brought you through this year. If you are currently in a struggle, perhaps now is the time for fasting and prayer… in the same way that Governor Bradford recognized the need to seek His Face. Remember the widows, the orphans, and the poor this Thanksgiving. Now is also a time to thank God for the provision that will carry us through the winter months into a new spring. If after all of this you are still finding it hard to give thanks to God… then I pray that you will soften your heart to the things of God, and repent of your bitterness, unforgiveness, and stubbornness. The Word is very clear that God disciplines those He loves (Heb12:6), and digging in your heels or stiffening your neck only makes it worse for you.
In closing, I thought it would be cool to share Psalms 9:
Psalm 9 (NASB)
A Psalm of Thanksgiving for God’s Justice. For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.
1 I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
2 I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
3 When my enemies turn back,
They stumble and perish before You.
4 For You have maintained my just cause;
You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
5 You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
And You have uprooted the cities;
The very memory of them has perished.
7 But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
8 And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
9 The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
A stronghold in times of trouble;
10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
Declare among the peoples His deeds.
12 For He who requires blood remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13 Be gracious to me, O Lord;
See my affliction from those who hate me,
You who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 That I may tell of all Your praises,
That in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in Your salvation.
15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made Himself known;
He has executed judgment.
In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah.
17 The wicked will return to Sheol,
Even all the nations who forget God.
18 For the needy will not always be forgotten,
Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
19 Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail;
Let the nations be judged before You.
20 Put them in fear, O Lord;
Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah.
May the Lord bless you and keep you in His Will.