Before solemn holidays were turned into commercial opportunities, there was true meaning behind them. There were lives involved and courageous men and women who paved the way for us. They may have sat out in the cold near a fire before daybreak because they had to, not because they were waiting for the store to open so they could buy the latest game platform.
The things we take for granted in this country are those that the original pioneers didn’t have. But one thing they did have was a sense of purpose in their lives, a rugged individualism, and faith that surpassed all understanding. Here’s a true account taken from “Of Plymouth Plantation” written by William Bradford, co-writer of the Mayflower Compact.
In the days leading up to the first “Thanksgiving” of the Pilgrims, they had dispatched a group of ten men to “explore the bay and trade with the natives.” They were guided by the English speaking Squanto, who also served as an interpreter. When the men returned, they were very impressed with the land around the bay and wished they could have settled there instead of Cape Cod.
William Bradford, wrote however, “But it seems that the Lord, Who assigns to all men the bounds of their habitations, had appointed it for another use. And thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity.”
This “Thanksgiving” to the Lord offered by Bradford in his history Of Plymouth Plantation indicates that Jesus was at the center of his thoughts about all things—even the land they were allocated by God to begin their colony. It also forebears testimony to the very positive Christian witness and relations the Pilgrims maintained with the Indians.
This comment was followed immediately by Bradford’s account of the harvest in October 1621. Bradford writes, “Each person had about a peck of meal a week, or now since harvest, Indian corn in that proportion; and afterwards many wrote at length about their plenty to their friends in England—not feigned but true reports.”
One of those true reports is found in Mourt’s Relation by Pilgrim Edward Winslow—the only account of the first “Thanksgiving.” Winslow writes:
Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors…at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.
Winslow concluded, “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.” Thanks to the godly men and women who came before us, even in our decline we remain blessed more than any other nation on earth.
Jeremiah 4:2 says that if God’s people return to Him, “And thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory.”
This is a promise to the nations. So today, as should be our practice each day, may you have a Psalm 103:2 day, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Have a blessed and powerful day!