I have been doing a little reading about the first Thanksgiving, and I am once again in awe of the Pilgrims. They endured a harrowing crossing of the Atlantic and after 65 miserable days, two deaths, and being blown about 250 miles off course, they landed in Massachusetts. The first thing they did was to read Psalm 100 and give thanks to God. It quickly became clear to them that they needed to establish some type of law in this wild new land. The Mayflower Compact was written and signed by 41 men (women were not allowed to sign). There were nine who did not sign and their number included hired sailors and those too sick to sign.
I encourage every American to read the brief text of the document. There are two points that stand out to me. First is the affirmation that the venture was undertaken to advance the kingdom of God and to bring Him glory. The second was the idea that law is made by the people, not by a king.
I can’t even imagine the sacrifices the Pilgrims made. Arriving in a wild and untamed land, they were led by divine providence to a village that had been deserted by a tribe of Native Americans who had been wiped out by a plague. Here the Pilgrims found buried corn that sustained them during that first winter. I may be getting lost in the weeds of history, but I am trying to make a point. Life that first year was incredibly hard. But still they set aside a day to give thanks.
This has been a hard year for us, this 2020. For some of us heartbreakingly hard. But today we give thanks. We look for the good in the midst of the bad, and we give thanks to the God who sustains us. We have hope for the future because we know God to be a good God, all the time. He is good even when we don’t understand, even when our tears temporarily blind us to His great love for us. We will give thanks today because He is worthy of our praise. But we give thanks for another reason…because it is good for us. It is good for us to be mindful of our blessings and to express gratitude to the Source of those blessings. Psalm 92 tells us that it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to His name.
Give thanks even though there is an empty chair at your table. Give thanks if you are out of a job, even if the bills are piling up. Give thanks if you can’t be with those you love this year. Even if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, give thanks today. When you have no words, pray His word back to him with all the gratitude you can muster. Today is a day for giving thanks.
1Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100