There are multiple stories that we associate with the origins of Thanksgiving
The popular version tells of a feast in 1621 involving native Americans and Pilgrims after the Pilgrims' first successful harvest. This feast lasted three days and was attended by 90 native Americans and 53 Pilgrims -- only half of the original group of Pilgrims had survived that first year in the New World.
Or we might associate our Thanksgiving holiday with the proclamation for a day of thanksgiving issued by George Washington after a request by the Continental Congress. Abraham Lincoln's proclamation during the Civil War for a national Thanksgiving Day set the date for the final Thursday of November.
What unites these different accounts of Thanksgiving is that each proclamation or celebration of thanks took place during a period of hardship and suffering. The pilgrims had buried half their community; the colonists had been losing to the British; the U.S. Civil War was the U.S. Civil War. We have a history in the United States of marking days for the giving of thanks to God because we had survived through a difficult time.
To give God thanks after or even during our troubles is a biblical tradition.
Here is just a sample:
• 1 Chronicles 16:34: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
• Psalm 95:2-3 "Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods."
• Psalm 100:4 "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."
• Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
A popular tradition during Thanksgiving is to ask every person around the dinner table to offer one thing for which they are thankful. This Thanksgiving we might modify this tradition to include the one thing we are thankful that we have survived.
By declaring that we are grateful to God we acknowledge our continued dependence on Him. We thank God out of our abundance but also out of our need. We give God thanks for making it to today; our trust is in God for tomorrow.
Editor's note: The Rev. Dr. Scott Stewart is the pastor of Pea Ridge United Methodist Church and Brightwater Methodist Church. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-659-9519.Religion on 11/27/2019
Print Headline: A history of Thanksgiving