Thanksgiving was first observed here in America following the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. It was a time for the Pilgrims to acknowledge God as faithful, earnestly giving Him thanks for His abundant blessings. But it was neither a feast nor a holiday. When they arrived in the New World during the winter, it was very difficult for them to find food and shelter. Most of the passengers would not survive their first few months here in America.
In contrast, for most of us today, the Thanksgiving holiday is a time to celebrate with family and friends, to watch football, and to be festive. All well and good, but it is also a time to give thanks for our well-being, for all that has been given to us. It is a time to reflect, to gather in unity, to find hope, and a time of reconciliation. It is a time to give back in gratitude for all that we have received. It is a time to be thankful in all things.
The poem “Thanksgiving” by Ralph Waldo Emerson might, I think, reflect what many of us will say as our thanks to God this holiday.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
But do our thanks go beyond thanking God only for what we see as His abundant provision? It is a time to be thankful in all things the Bible says. This morning I opened a hymnal to “Thanks to God for My Redeemer” – song by John Hultman, 1910; words by August Storm, 1891. I thought about the words. Am I thankful to God only when things are going my way, or am I also thankful to God for the storms in my life, for the mishaps, for those things that are not always pleasurable?
The words to “Thanks to God for My Redeemer” reflect the heart of one who is satisfied always, in both abundance and lacking.
“Thanks to God for my Redeemer, thanks for all thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory, thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime, thanks for dark and dreary fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten, thanks for peace within my soul!
Thanks for prayers that thou hast answered, thanks for what thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered, thanks for all thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure, thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure, thanks for love beyond compare!
Thanks for roses by the wayside, thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for homes and thanks for fireside, thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow, thanks for heavenly peace with thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow, thanks through all eternity.”
I wonder how many of us will “give thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20), not only for what we see as His abundant blessings, but of sorrow and joy, through pleasure and despair, through lacking and abundance.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Thanks be to God.
Copyright 2014 by Bill Hutzel