Thanksgiving, which begins the Christmas season celebration, should rouse a heartfelt appreciation for the founders of this great Republic. Thanksgiving Day is a fitting time to ponder the courage of those who braved a sixty-six-day arduous voyage on the Mayflower; sacrificing greatly for the freedom and liberty that we enjoy today.
The voyage of God’s people, known as the Pilgrims, during the summer of 1620 initiated a peaceful revolution, which followed the selfless strategy of Jesus Christ providing freedom, both spiritually and physically, for more people than any army in history.
These Pilgrims established Plymouth and set up the foundations for the God-given right of freedom for this Nation’s future generations. They chose to stand for the truth without compromise and for the hope that they, and their posterity, could experience liberty under God. It cost them everything to lay the groundwork of the most prosperous and free nation in history.
Their significant document, The Mayflower Compact, which begins “In the name of God, Amen,” placed in the hands of the people the right to create laws and constitutions under God’s direction. This document became a basis for more than eighty colonial charters and covenants that laid the foundation for America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It set the course for this Nation, reading in part:
“…having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith...”
Of the original 102 Pilgrims, 49 died during the first year. Their problems were compounded by the communal farming that had been forced on them by the merchants who had funded their voyage, resulting in two years of near starvation.
This failed experiment in socialism was abandoned in the summer of 1623, at which time Governor William Bradford gave each family a plot of ground on which to plant their own crops. Under this biblical structure of free enterprise, each family worked their own land resulting in an explosion of productivity. Corn began to rise in the fields. However, no rain fell in July and August to water the crops and the settlers, once again, faced starvation.
Remembering that they had forgotten to thank God, they declared a day of fasting, repentance and prayer for God’s deliverance. A gentle rain began that afternoon and lasted for three days, restoring their crops and saving their lives. After this miracle, Governor Bradford declared a Day of Thanksgiving to God for His rain and provision.
After the Revolutionary War
As a Nation, America’s first “national” Thanksgiving occurred in 1789 with the commencement of the federal government. After completing the framing of the Bill of Rights, ratified on December 15, 1791, the first act was:
Mr. [Elias] Boudinot said he could not think of letting the session pass without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining with one voice in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings He had poured down upon them. With this view, therefore, he would move the following resolution:
Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer. . . .
Mr. Roger Sherman justified the practice of thanksgiving on any single event not only as a laudable one in itself but also as warranted by a number of precedents in Holy Writ. . . This example he thought worthy of a Christian imitation on the present occasion.
That congressional resolution was delivered to President George Washington, who issued the first federal Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring in part:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations 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. . . . Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.
During the War Between the States
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation setting aside the last Thursday of that November. Despite a time of extremely difficult circumstances, Lincoln called Americans to prayer with an air of positive optimism and genuine thankfulness, noting:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, Who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
During World War II
On December 26, 1941, House Joint Resolution 41, dated October 6, 1941, was signed into law. Thus, beginning in 1942, the fourth Thursday in November, and every subsequent one, has been officially recognized in the United States of America as a day of giving thanks to the only One to Whom it should be given.
In light of the above-noted statements and deeds that laid out the course of action and standards for America, what say you regarding how this great Republic is measuring up today? Is Almighty God being glorified by the actions of this nation? Is the Christian faith being advanced by the administrative, legislative and judicial branches of government at the federal, state and local levels? Is the Body of Christ manifesting the characteristics of Jesus Christ and thus, being of significant influence on secular society? Although the voters set a positive course of action during the last election, to say that there are a few “chinks in the armor’s integrity” continues to be an understatement!
However, if we only look at the results of mankind’s efforts to meet the lofty goals set by our founders, despair will set in and thankfulness will diminish. Maybe our wise founding fathers knew that erosion along the way would be caused by our old sin nature, which cannot be redeemed by man’s laws, rules and regulations. To keep hope alive, it appears that their primary reasoning for the establishment of Thanksgiving was to redirect mankind’s focus away from individual circumstances and toward the Creator of heaven and earth.
Thus, understanding that human labors alone, sans God’s grace (unmerited/undeserved favor), will never maintain the uprightness of this great Republic, or the Church or individual hearts, let us join together and refocus on the Source during this special season.
In order to calm the noises and distractions created by man’s commercialization, I recommend spending a few minutes reflecting on the Reason for this Thanksgiving/Christmas Season while listening to an inspiring rendition of “Oh, Holy Night” (embedded audio below). As this season progresses, my prayer is that we all exhibit a renewed spirit, which will manifest IF we allow God’s Spirit (rûach) to fill us with deeper wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and the fear of the LORD.