Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, and is a perfect time to reflect on the many blessings God has given us throughout the year. While Thanksgiving is a one-day event, the Bible talks about the importance of giving thanks in every season – “… stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at evening … 1 Chron 23:30.”
As we join millions of others in observing Thanksgiving in the coming week, let’s take a moment to reflect on the unique history of this holiday. The Gospel Herald has compiled ten verses that deal with thanking God for His many blessings, care, and beneficence. Remember – thankfulness, practiced everyday, opens the door to the presence of God and grants us the power to shift our hearts towards God in every circumstance.
History and Meaning
In 1621, the very first Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated by the Plymouth settlers – also known as Pilgrims – in Massachusetts. As devout Christians, the Pilgrims wished to thank God for his care and provision with an elaborate harvest feast – known at the time as a “Harvest Festival”.
These English Pilgrims, a group of religious separatists from the Church of England led by William Bradford, left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620, for the New World hoping to gain religious and civil freedom. After a torturous two months at sea aboard the Mayflower, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. Following a prayer service and a signing of the “Mayflower Compact” – the first document to introduce self-government to the New World – they prepared for the harsh New England winter.
Sadly, half of the settlers died before winter’s end due to lack of shelter, starvation and diseases like scurvy. However, by persevering in prayer and with the help of Native Americans, the remaining settlers planted crops and reaped a sufficient harvest to carry them through the second winter in the New World.
The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast that started on December 13, 1621, to thank God for His favor and to celebrate with and thank their Indian friends. The celebration featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans.
While individual colonies and states celebrated Thanksgiving for two subsequent centuries, it wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
Traditions and Activities
Today, Thanksgiving celebrations often focus on fellowship, cooking, and sharing a lavish meal with family and friends. Traditional foods include turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, and many others.
Across the country, many churches hold Thanksiving Day services or host free dinners for the less fortunate. Sometimes, families spend the day volunteering at homeless shelters or food banks. Other traditions include watching football games or playing games as a family.
Parades are also held on Thanksgiving Day – most notably New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which attracts some 2 to 3 million spectators along its 2.5-mile route. Beginning in the mid-20th century and perhaps even earlier, the President of the United States will “pardon” a turkey, which spares the bird’s life and ensures that it will spend the duration of its life roaming freely on farmland, according to the History Channel.
Here are ten verses – in no particular order – that can help you express your gratitude to God for His protection, grace and faithfulness.
1. Psalm 46:1-2: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the Earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea …”
2. 1st Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
3. Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”
4. Hebrews 12:28-29: “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”.
5. Colossians 2:6-7: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”
6. Psalm 28:7: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.”
7. Phillipians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
8. Psalm 31:19: “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.”
9. 2nd Corinthians 4:15: “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.”
10. Psalm 100:4: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”