The Meaning of Thanksgiving
In December of 1620, the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts. One hundred and two settlers disembarked and when they had all made shore they gathered together and got on their knees to pray. This is where America began: people on their knees in thankful prayer. With the ship anchored near shore, the intrepid pilgrims began to build rough shelters for the winter. By spring, forty-seven of them were dead.
The fateful moment came that spring when the Mayflower weighed anchor and they were alone in the wilderness. As it happened one of the Native Americans in the area had actually learned English years earlier when he had been taken to England by some fisherman who had visited the coast. What are the odds that in a million miles of coastline, these English settlers would land in a spot where the only English-speaking Indian on the entire continent was living? There are no coincidences, only God’s providence! His name was Tisquantum and he taught them basic farming and hunting techniques for the New World. If that wasn’t enough, he singled handedly negotiated a peace treaty that endured for the rest of the century.
By fall of 1621, things were looking positive for the new settlement so Governor Bradford declared a day of thanksgiving and invited some 90 natives to join them in a harvest feast. It was a limited menu: geese, ducks, venison, turkey, boiled pumpkin and cornbread. There was no pie but there surely was prayer and reading from the scriptures for the Puritans were devout and godly people. This event is at the core of the holiday we now call Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for many things this year. My children are working and going to school. I have been married for 36 years to the most wonderful woman in the world who is now a cancer survivor. I’ve met so many inspiring Christians here at HUMC. I live in the only country in history outside of Africa that elected a black man president. I live in a country where if the citizens want to make changes in leadership they can. What a country we live in! Commentators give an endless stream of gripes, complaints and criticism. This Thanksgiving, be brave and turn off the grouch machine and start counting blessings. A godly person is one whose thanksgiving list is twice as long as their grievances.
America began as a band of half-starved pilgrims with hands blistered from digging winter graves for their own families. Even so, they had the sense to be on their knees thanking God for freedom, opportunity, and especially for the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. The renewal of our country does not begin with elections, legislatures or schools, but it begins where America began, on our knees! To be thankful is to get on your knees. When we look at the world from our knees, then we know all are invited and whatever blessings we have are to be shared.
In 1621 Governor Bradford wisely invited more than 90 natives to join the settlers at the dinner table. This is the narrative that gives America its fundamental nobility: ours is a nation founded by Christian believers but remaining open to all.
In Hope and Confidence,
Pastor Tom Anderson