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The Heritage of Rejoicing in Blessings

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Every year Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. In my opinion there aren't many things that show the love and mercy of God quite like it. Sure, there are those who distort and make it all about vain human desires. But to me, it is a glorious time to reflect on the glory of a great and mighty God.

At least twenty of my direct ancestors (great grandmother's and grandfather's) journied to America in search of freedom, the liberty to devout their lives to God, and the ability to live as they saw that God required. They landed here in Massachusetts in November, a typically chilly month with the occasional warm day. 100 people landed here with the intention to make this new land their home. Yet, because they came at such a harsh time of year, there was nothing that they could do in the way of crops for food. By the time the Mayflower went back to England in 1621, there were only 40 people left. The immense hardships that they encountered that first year were enough to cause most people today to give up. Yet, not one of them chose to return to England. Most people probably would say that it was because of the effort that they had already expended in getting through that winter. But I would suggest that it had much more to do with their view of God and His goodness. They firmly believed that He who had called them to His side had carried them through that dark winter of 1620/21. It wasn't by chance that they had survived, but by God's providence.

The first spring and summer, these men, women, and children that I proudly claim as my family devoted their time to sowing crops, developing relationships with their neighbors (the Native Americans that dwelt nearby), and to worshipping their God in peace with all gusto. They not only knew that it was through God's grace that they made it through that winter, they knew that it would only be through His grace that they continued to survive.

It was with that mindset that they approached that first harvest of crops. It wasn't about keeping things for themselves or stocking up for what they knew would be another horribly fierce winter. No, these men and women understood that ALL blessings come from God. Nothing that we have is ours, but rather a gift from the Almighty. It was with that specific knowledge that they with delight and gratitude (for without the kindness of Squanto and Massasoit they may have all very well perished that first winter) they sent out invitations for their neighbors to join them in celebrating the harvest they had just so recently reaped.

There were about fifty pilgrims now at this time, some children having been born through the year. These opened their homes and settlement to as many Native Americans as chose to come. In all accounts there were about 90 that did so. This goes directly in the face of most modern accounts that have recently tried to paint the picture that the pilgrims took over land and were hated by the Native Americans and only a few who were forced to attend came. This was simply not the case. Over the first year, much was done to develop close ties with the Native Americans. They came with almost double the numbers of the Pilgrims, and if they truly disliked them so, could easily have slaughtered them then, let alone throughout that first horrid winter.

For about three days, they all gathered together and the Pilgrims shared their thankfulness, not only to God, but to their new friends for their kindness. Edward Wilson stated it simply, "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."

So, this year, if you are looking for ways to live a Godly example to demonstrate the faithfulness of God to your neighbors and friends. Do not cower before men, but look to the one who gives and sustains life. If those men and women could rejoice after the year that they had, giving thanks to the One who carried them, shouldn't we? Share your plenty with those around you, love one another as Christ has loved you, and live in such a way to lift high the name of Christ.

The first Thanksgiving was held after a much harder year then any of us have endured this year, for over half their loved ones had died from disease, starvation, and the elements. Do we not serve a faithful God? For did He not preserve a remnant of those choosing to worship Him in freedom?

Give thanks therefore, for God has blessed you with life. Rejoice that He has decreed you to live in such a time as this. And proclaim His goodness through suffering, for He is everlasting good.

Let us see the first Thanksgiving as it was, not as a narrative 400 years later wants us to see it, but as it truly was. A time of worship, thanksgiving, and enjoyment of friends and family. Let us live this year in such a way, so that those who see us wonder with amazement at the strength we reflect and the love with which have been bestowed.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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