A seasonal message for Thanksgiving
Soon across America families will gather, turkey will be served with cranberries and all the fixin’s and people will give thanks. Most will not have a true understanding of the Thanksgiving holiday, or what they are thankful for except that it is a day off from work.
In fact, in schools across this nation, the real meaning of thanksgiving is absent because the Christian dimension of the holiday has been excluded, seperation of church and state.
‘I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.’ Psalm 138 (KJV)
President Woodrow Wilson said;
“A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are not trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.”
I want to help us to focus our thanksgiving attention on a group of pilgrims who joined together in the early part of the 1600’s. I want us to remember a time when King James I was on the throne in England and the Church of England under his authority persecuted anyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority, a church which was known to hunt down, imprison and even execute those who believed in freedom of religion.
There was such a group who left England for Holland and after being there for about 11 years, forty agreed to make a dangerous journey to the New World, they were coming to America. This small band of believers knew they were going to face hardships. But they knew they would also be able to live and to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. And so they set sail on August 1, 1620 aboard the Mayflower. The ship carried 102 passengers, including 40 pilgrims led by William Bradford.
Halfway across the Atlantic the Mayflower and her crew faced near disaster in a fierce storm that caused one of the main beams to bow and crack. Passengers had urged Captian Christopher Jones to turn back but he assured them the vessel was strong and firm under water. He ordered the crew to replace the beam and to secure it with a great iron screw the pilgrims had brought with them from Holland. With the beam raised, they committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.
On November 19, 1620 the Mayflower caught sight of Cape Cod, which the pilgrims described as “a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea.” A true statement of Cape Cod at that time, but lacking a sanction of go ashore, they continued to sail on for their charter had been issued for the Virginia Colony which was south of Cape Cod.
As the ship continued to sail south, those on board pondered what to do. Their decision, the Mayflower Compact which was intended on as being a temporary pact to keep law and order among themselves in the wilderness where there was no law. This historic document has laid the foundation for law and order in America.
Where did this revolutionary idea come from for the Mayflower Compact? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were people who were totally immersed into the Old and New Testament, people who looked to the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture and the ancient Israelite’s for their example. They never doubted their experiment in religious freedom would fail.
At the heart of the Compact lay the undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and that law without a moral base was really no law at all. The compact also rested on a covenant agreement, that all law would rest not upon a monarchy or a dictatorship, but upon the consent of the governed.
This was no Princess luxury cruise the Pilgrims had embarked upon. It was long and hard when when they landed in New England in November, the found according to Bradford’s journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. They had no friends to greet them when they came ashore Bradford wrote. There were no houses for shelter, no inn in which they could refresh themselves.
And the sacrifices they made for religious freedom were just beginning. In the first winter, half the Pilgrims, including Bradford’s wife, died either of starvation, sickness, or exposure. When spring came, the Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod, and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper. This is where the modern history books leave off. In fact, some explain Thanksgiving as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testament.
Psalm 138 which states, “I will give thanks with all my heart” What is your thanksgiving about tomorrow, for what will you give thanks with all your heart. Is it you success, your possessions, your family, your fortune? All things to be thankful for, but they are merely the gods of this world. The Psalmist said, “I will sing praises to Thee before the gods.” Basically, I can look at all these things and can turn my praises to the true and living God, toward Jehovah, Father God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Governor Bradford’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation which was given three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth Rock.
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscious.
“Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almight God for all His blessings.”
So we too, have come of the great celebration of thanksgiving to God, to give him thanks with all of our hearts.