Thanksgiving Day

By David Engelsma

The celebration of Thanksgiving Day is one of our nations's most cherished traditions, dating back some 200 years, when George Washington called the American people to observe "a day of public thanksgiving and prayer," so that they might acknowledge "with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God." We too are called to give thanks, yet how often we take our blessings for granted, dwelling instead on our problems. Bishop Ryle once observed in his quaint way, "We are prone to hide our blessings under a bushel and to set our troubles on a hill." While this Thanksgiving, many of us may be struggling with such things as ill health, job uncertainties, inadequate finances, family tensions, spiritual depression, disappointed hopes, fresh grief, and lonely isolation, yet, we are called to give thanks. It is our duty. In God's Word we read, "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thess. 5:18). The Pilgrims' celebration of the first Thanksgiving in America vividly reminds us that even in the midst of temporal troubles, there is always something to be grateful for. They arrived in December 1620 as a band of 102 men, women, and children. By April 1621, only 50 remained.

Though the darkest skies bent over those rude dwellings; though the bleakest winds swept round them that first dreary winter, though no human tongue can fully describe the privations, and sufferings, and griefs of those exiles in all those terrible months, still around their wood fires, the only comfort that was plenty, the prayer of thanksgiving was said, and the song of praise was sung." "Above all, there was freedom to worship God - that dearest of all blessings. Only half of our company had died; the rest were getting well. God was nearer to us than He ever had been in dear old England. He had planted His vine in the wilderness, and the vine of His planting would grow. What more could we ask?"

And so in October, the settlement which had lost half its population the previous winter, which had no more than a toehold on their new homeland, set aside a day as a feast of thanksgiving.

Let us also, during this season of Thanksgiving, pause to remember and to reflect upon the Pilgrims' cheerful trust in God and their indomitable perseverance in courageously wrestling with the difficulties they met. Let us seek grace to follow in their footsteps to "acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor" for our families, schools, churches, and nation.