Render ye thanksgiving to Almighty God

Published 7:08 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2009

With these words, “Render Ye Thanksgiving to Almighty God,” Gov. William Bradford, the leader of the newly, established colony at Plymouth, Mass., proclaimed the first Thanksgiving.

Actually, it is the first proclamation of Thanksgiving in the New World. The Psalmist, thousands of years before, had invited us to the first Thanksgiving with the inspired words, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4).

The year for Gov. Bradford’s proclamation was 1621, in October, a little less than a year after they had set foot upon the shores of the New World. One-hundred-eleven brave “saints” and “strangers” (they had divided themselves in that manner) had set sail for this new start in September of 1620. They had landed 65 days later in fear of the savages of this New World, a fear that was unfounded.

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Less than 50 had survived that devastating first winter, its intense cold, heavy snow and sleet. The aforementioned Native Americans had proved to be saviors instead of savages as they had taught these new settlers all about corn and other vegetables that would grow. Gov. Bradford could just as easily have named this yet-to-be holiday Survivor’s Day. Instead it was to become the uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow is Thursday and Thanksgiving and, whether we would say it or not, we might feel thankful for simply surviving another year. Sometimes, in the morning, when I am thinking about praying, I say “Lord, thank you for allowing me another day.” After all is said and done, I think it is God who holds each life in His hand.

That’s truly an awesome thought, when you consider that the estimated population of the world is about 6.8 billion as I write this (source: U.S. Census Bureau). Only God can know every person and their fate so it is to God that we give our thanks as we enjoy today, tomorrow and all days.

I am thankful, though, that God is not simply interested in our survival. It is His desire that we might have life and have it abundantly. That little bit of commentary comes to you and me from His Son, Jesus Christ, as He spoke in the Gospel of John (John 10:10).

I am thankful for my abundant life. It is evident even as I write and will be as clear as the proverbial bell as I gather with my family around the table and in the home that I will never forget. There will be the blessing of a still-living full set of parents. There’s no place like home and there are no parents like the ones you and I have.

Also gathering will be the brother and sister that I love dearly. They will be accompanied, I pray, by their individual families. Thankfully, the family is at peace with one another and we still know how to laugh and enjoy each other’s company. In fact, we probably enjoy it more now than ever before. How about that!

Donna Sue will be with me, as will our daughter, Jessica, and our grandson, Cameron. We will miss Brad, our son-in-law, and look forward to the day when his work will allow him to join us on this great day. Work and geography keep us apart too much, but on Thanksgiving we, somehow, find a way to see each other. I wish it could be more often, but tomorrow is not a day for wishing upon a star; it is a day for giving thanks that time, at least, has allowed for this gathering.

Way back in 1621, Gov. Bradford felt that a day should be set aside to thank God. Upon their table would be the fruits of their labors. One of the only written histories of that day tells of the wild fowl and venison they had killed for their table. Thankfully, our meat will be more easily secured, although it will have cost a whole lot more.

I have enjoyed reading Jim Smith’s accounts of two styles of Thanksgiving victuals. The food we enjoy will be very close to the latter one he described as the southern style. I’ll be thankful for all the delicious dishes, but the one that I associate most fondly with Thanksgiving will be the chicken and dressing. I wonder if any of you have ever had a dressing sandwich.

I would be at a loss if I tried to rate the holidays. By that I mean, if I tried to say which one is the best. Most of the time, it’s the one that I am enjoying at that particular time. Who could not love and enjoy Christmas and all of its decorations and genuine joy? The way houses and businesses dress themselves up during the Christmas season makes it an obvious choice as the best. Plus, although almost forgotten, it is the birthday of the King!

To a Christian, the season of Easter and its sober, but eternal meaning rates high. It also has its color and special songs. The holiday of Easter has its place of prominence. Then there is the patriotic holiday of the Fourth of July. Independence Day is high on the list.

I won’t rate the holidays; it’s too subjective, but Thanksgiving has come to mean quite a lot to me and my family. It’s the one time of the year that most all of us try to make it “home.” It has taken on a reverence for that reason alone. As time passes, the gathering of the family becomes more difficult and more precious.

The word “doxology” does not refer to a specific song, but rather a type of song. In my experience in the Christian church it is a type of song that praises God and, as a Christian, we praise God in all of His mystery and glory. There is, however, a particular song that has taken on the name of The Doxology. It is sung often after the offering has been collected.

Its first line is “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.” It is an acknowledgment that all believers in God recognize that we owe Him and Him alone, for all the goodness in our lives. I think of that phrase as I think of Thanksgiving. I will be thinking of it tomorrow as our blessing is said in the wonderful surroundings of home and family. I hope you will also. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.