We are all familiar with the story of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts. If we shut our eyes
and pictured them, I would imagine we would all be thinking about the same scene: pilgrims in their black and white outfits, eating with their Native American friends, at long tables with turkey and deer and corn and an assortment of other food covering the table. This is the traditional scene of so many paintings, movies, and Thanksgiving books. Here the pilgrims are giving thanks to God for a bountiful harvest after their first year in the new world. This thanksgiving took place in 1621.
Two years before, in 1619, another thanksgiving event took place in Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. The group of English settlers upon their arrival here had a “day of thanksgiving” to God. As their charter said, "Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god."
It is from those beginnings that the thanksgiving tradition began here in America. During the first thirty years of our country, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison all made Thanksgiving proclamations. It was finally made a federal holiday under Lincoln.
George Washington’s words from the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789 still speak powerfully to the gratitude, faith, and hope of these early Americans. "Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country...for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed...and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually...To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."
From 1789, we come to this week before our next Thanksgiving. I urge you as you are eating and celebrating to remember these early celebrations of Thanksgiving and to see what they saw - God at the heart of all goodness and that everything we have that we enjoy and live for is from God. Be thankful for these gifts.
Rev. Tim Blodgett