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Question: "What should be the focus of Christians on
Answer: The original thanksgiving celebration was held by
the Pilgrim settlers in Massachusetts during their second
winter in America in December, 1621. The first winter had
killed 44 of the original 102 colonists. At one point their
daily food ration was down to five kernels of corn apiece,
but then an unexpected trading vessel arrived, swapping
them beaver pelts for corn, providing for their severe need.
The next summer’s crop brought hope, and Governor William
Bradford decreed that December 13, 1621, be set aside as
a day of feasting and prayer to show the gratitude of the
colonists that they were still alive.
These Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom and opportunity
in America, gave thanks to God for His provision for them
in helping them find 20 acres of cleared land, for the fact
that there were no hostile Indians in that area, for their
newfound religious freedom, and for God’s provision of an
interpreter to the Indians in Squanto. Along with the
feasting and games involving the colonists and more than
80 friendly Indians (who added to the feast by bringing
wild turkeys and venison), prayers, sermons, and songs
of praise were important in the celebration. Three days
were spent in feasting and prayer.
From that time forward, Thanksgiving has been celebrated
as a day to give thanks to God for His gracious and sufficient
provision. President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside
the last Thursday of November, in 1863, “as a day of
thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” In 1941,
Congress ruled that after 1941, the fourth Thursday of
November be observed as Thanksgiving Day and be a legal
Scripturally, we find things related to the issue of thanksgiving
nearly from cover to cover. Individuals offered up sacrifices
out of gratitude in the book of Genesis. The Israelites sang a
song of thanksgiving as they were delivered from Pharaoh's
army after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15). Later,
the Mosaic Law set aside three times each year when the
Israelites were to gather together. All three of these times
[Unleavened Bread (also called the Feast of the Passover)
(Exodus 12:15-20), Harvest or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21),
and the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-36)]
involved remembering God’s provision and grace. Harvest and
Tabernacles took place specifically in relation to God’s provision
in the harvest of various fruit trees and crops. The book of
Psalms is packed full of songs of thanksgiving, both for God’s
grace to the Israelite people as a whole through His mighty
deeds, as well as for His individual graces to ea ch of us.
In the New Testament, there are repeated admonitions to give
thanks to God. Thanksgiving is to always be a part of our prayers
. Some of the most remembered passages on the giving of thanks
are the following:
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and
supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made
known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men"
(1 Timothy 2:1).
Of all of God’s gifts, the greatest one He has given is the gift
of His Son, Jesus Christ. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid
our sin debt, so a holy and just Judge could forgive us our sins
and give us eternal life as a free gift. This gift is available to
those who will call on Christ to save them from their sin in
simple but sincere faith (John 3:16; Romans 3:19-26; Romans
6:23; Romans 10:13; Ephesians 2:8-10). For this gift of His Son,
the gift which meets our greatest need, the Apostle Paul says,
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
We, like the Pilgrims, have a choice. In life there will always be
those things that we can complain about (the Pilgrims had lost many
loved ones), but there will also be much to be thankful for. As our
society becomes increasingly secular, the actual “giving of thanks
to God” during our annual Thanksgiving holiday is being overlooked
, leaving only the feasting. May God grant that He may find us grateful
every day for all of His gifts, spiritual and material. God is good,
and every good gift comes from Him (James 1:17). For those who
know Christ, God also works everything together for good, even
events we would not necessarily consider good (Romans 8:28-30).
May He find us to be His grateful children.
Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible.
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