I love Thanksgiving. The food is wonderful. The gathering together of family is a blessed time. The hours of relaxation after the food are great too. Most of all, I love the football. Professional or college football, the fact that I can eat that much and then watch football for hours afterwards is a true Thanksgiving blessing.
When the Pilgrims and other early settlers first celebrated Thanksgiving, they were thankful for a lot more and a lot more important things. They traveled thousands of miles to an unfamiliar land. They were cut off from everything they had previously known. The conditions here were harsh and daunting. Everything they needed, they now had to make or create for themselves.
The image we most associate with Thanksgiving is the image of the pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down to a meal in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We all know this story. After a long year, harvest came and the pilgrims wanted to give thanks to God for such a bountiful harvest that would allow them to survive through the winter and beyond. They were thankful for God’s grace. This was only one of many early Thanksgiving meals. When a group arrived at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia, before they planted a single crop, they set out a large feast to celebrate the safe ocean crossing and to give thanks to God. Many other Thanksgiving meals were celebrated in those early days in the New World and in all of them there was a recognition that everything we have to be thankful for comes from God. Our hands can plant the seed, but the seed, the water, the sunlight, the energy to grow, and abundance of the harvest all come from God.
I urge you, as you are eating later this month (and at gatherings throughout the month), to remember these early celebrations of Thanksgiving. See what they saw: God at the heart of all goodness. Know what they knew: everything we enjoy and live for is from God. Today, tomorrow, everyday let us be thankful for God’s grace, for God’s love, and for God’s mercy.