Pastor's Blog

A Uniquely Christian Thanksgiving Posted 11.20.2014

We have much for which to give thanks this week, in this our Golden Year.  The blessings of God, our Helper, have been beyond what we deserve.  So this week – and especially today – we give thanks. I came across a simple account of how we came to our current holiday.  A story often overlooked.  


In the early 1600s, the Wampanoag Indians covered the coast of New England. They raised crops, living close to the ocean in summer for seafood, moving inland in winter to set up hunting camps. Their encounters with Europeans over the years were mostly friendly.


One exception: In 1614 Captain Thomas Hunt captured several Wampanoag, along with a Patuxet named Squanto, to be sold into slavery in Spain. A Spanish monk purchased Squanto's freedom, taught him English, and introduced him to Jesus Christ. In 1619, Squanto returned home, only to find his tribe wiped out by an epidemic. But he came home anyway.


Meanwhile, in 1608, a British group called the Separatists fled to Leyden, Holland. There they found religious freedom, but also poverty, grueling work hours and a secular culture that threatened to undo the values they had carefully instilled into their children. In 1620, they sold everything and indentured themselves for seven years to finance their journey to America.


On the Mayflower, those seeking the new land for other reasons joined the Separatists; these they called the Strangers. The two groups, 102 altogether, were called the Pilgrims.


Their journey lasted nine weeks. In one of those "accidents" which change the course of history, the ship lost its course and landed far north of its destination at what we now call Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  On December 21, 1620, they began their new life at the place they named Plymouth.


It was a devastating winter -- whipped with wind and sleet and snow. Half the Pilgrims died, but they clung to their faith.  No one went back across “the pond.”  Spring brought unexpected relief with the help of a noble and generous Christian brother -- Squanto. He taught them how to grow corn, use fertilizer, stalk deer and catch fish.


With an amazing first harvest, Governor Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to God and the Pilgrims invited their Indian friends. Chief Massasoit and 90 members of his tribe came, along with Squanto, bearing venison and wild turkeys for all to share.   It was a three-day feast.


The feast was not repeated, and it was not a federal holiday until 1863.  There was too much opposition in the nation to create a holiday around just one early group that struggled.  But they persisted through that struggle, and emerged thankful.  What a uniquely Christian perspective.


We all have our struggles.  Peninsula has had it struggles.  But today – and this week – we give thanks to God for His help through those struggles.  Thanksgiving is a joyful celebration, but it is also so much more.  It is about giving thanks in all circumstances, which is a uniquely Christian perspective.   God has been – and will be -- our helper.  “This day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

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