As we observe Thanksgiving Day, it does us good to think of some of the events that have left their impact on this day and us. Too often we have taken for granted this treasured observance that makes our nation one of the most unique in all the world. Our Pilgrim forebears were very, very wise. They were careful to see that their children did not easily forget the blessings of God.
Their first winter on the American continent was a difficult year. Stark famine stalked the streets of the log fortress. Before long there were more crosses in the cemetery than residences in the village. Their food was all but gone. Governor Bradford began issuing only five grains of corn to each person. That’s all they had to eat: five grains of corn a day for more than a month. But God saw them through.
In the years that followed, blessings were showered upon them. Their crops flourished. But every Thanksgiving Day when they sat at the table, before the food was brought out, Governor Bradford saw to it that five grains were placed beside each plate. They sat silently and remembered how God had blessed them.
When we reflect about Thanksgiving, we usually paint a lovely picture of charming pilgrims inviting a few Indians as guests to a feast. We see tables piled high with scrumptious dishes. But that first Thanksgiving followed the empty larders and the bitterly cold winter. Even the next spring and summer were periods of frightful drought. Special prayers were offered and finally a gentle rain offered relief. A ship also arrived with much-needed supplies. It was then that the first Thanksgiving was observed by Governor Bradford on July 30, 1623. Thanksg iving was offered not in a time of abundance, but of want!
On Oct. 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation, setting apart the last Thursday of November as the observance: “In the midst of a Civil War of unique magnitude and severity, I do therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of praise and Thanksgiving to our beneficent Father. “ Our first Thanksgiving Day nationally came during the darkest days of the Civil War. At a time when people were passing through the valley of the shadows of death, there was thanksgiving. True thanksgiving is not so much counting our blessings as making our blessings count!
Let us give thanks for the unpleasant things. As I look back over my life and observe the dealing of God with me, and as I think of the experiences that have come to me in life -some of them are painful. But today the experiences of life I appreciate the most, and the ones for which I am able to give the most fervent thanks are the experiences that caused me the greatest pain.
We cannot afford the luxury of an easy life. We need the discipline of God. We need correction, we need trouble, we need trial-we need these things to correct us, we need them to chasten us, we need them to build character; we need them to prepare us for the trials of life later on. We need them to draw us into the new and deeper fellowship with God; so let us give thanks for the disciplines of life, for the unpleasant things.
If we think -we will thank. Let us give thanks for the ordinary things. Have you thanked God for friends, loyal and true? Have you thanked God for the blessing of sleep -deep, dreamless, refreshing sleep? Have you thanked God for relief from pain?
Have you ever thanked God for rain pattering down upon the earth after weeks of blowing dust? Ordinary, familiar things, like 10,000 other ordinary things, but blessings!
I read of one who thanked God for dirty dishes! Can you imagine anybody giving thanks for dirty dishes? A high school girl wrote these lines: “Thank God for the dirty dishes, they have a story to tell, and by the stack I have it seems we are living very well. While people of others countries are starving, I haven’t the heart to fuss, for by this stack of evidence, God’s awfully good to us.”
An elderly gentleman, when asked for what he was thankful, replied: “I am thankful I have two teeth and that they meet each other.” Be thankful for our blessings every minute of the day.
Let us give thanks for the greatest gift of all. List the blessings of God. It will be a long list. Then at the very top of the list, place the greatest blessing, the gift of God’s wondrous love and amazing grace. The Apostle Paul wanted to give thanks for this gift but he didn’t have the language to express it, so he said, simply, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
May this be a blessed Thanksgiving for us all!