Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We typically associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims, or Puritan Separatists, were English Protestants influenced by John Calvin and wanted to "purify" the Anglican Church. King James I, the monarch who commissioned the King James Bible, was so intolerant of the Pilgrims that they fled to Holland in 1609. They settled in Leiden, where there was more religious freedom. What prompted the Pilgrims to travel to America was a lack of economic opportunities. They also wanted to spread the gospel to the New World and convert the Indians to Christianity. By the spring of 1621, half of the Pilgrims who went to America on the Mayflower had died. But the Indians befriended them and taught them how to fish and grow crops. Consistent with their single-minded faith, the Pilgrims gave God the credit for their survival, not themselves, and they celebrated "a day of giving thanks to God" in the autumn of 1621. No one knows the exact date. Among the Pilgrims' guests were 90 Indians and their chief. The feast lasted three days. In a letter about the celebration, Pilgrim Edward Winslow said, "And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
The very first national day of Thanksgiving was held in 1789, when President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26 to be "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer," to especially give thanks for the opportunity to form a new nation and the establishment of a new constitution.Sporadic days of Thanksgiving followed, usually declared locally to give thanks for a specific event such as the end of a drought, victory in a specific battle, or after a harvest. Thanksgiving was not celebrated officially in the United States until 1863, when in the middle of the country's bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, and on December 26, 1941, Congress passed a law declaring that Thanksgiving would occur every year on the fourth Thursday of November.
Our Thanksgiving is "late" this year. Seems like the Christmas marketing starts earlier each year, so when the "fourth Thursday" of November comes near the end of the 30 day cycle, it seems that we "lost" thanksgiving. But Wednesday is still the "biggest" travel day of the year, and most folks are determined to gather around the table, serve on a food line, or get together at a restaurant to celebrate, feast, and of course, to give thanks for companionship, bounty, and blessings.
Over the years, many have thanked God for freedom from persecution, bountiful harvests, safe travels, new government,good meals, and even a long weekend. But what about thanking God for something that doesn't seem like a blessing- a trying circumstance or hardship? No one has the ability within himself to endure hardships with gratefulness. Only by relying on the Lord can believers go through adversity with an appreciative heart. A grateful heart is most precious to God when, humanly speaking, our situations don't warrant giving thanks. So if we offer our hearts to the Lord in thanksgiving and prayer, regardless of circumstance, we will rejoice in Christ, as God wills it to be so.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. - 2 Corinthians 13:14