Many people in America would describe Thanksgiving in three words: food, football, and Black Friday deals. But is this what Thanksgiving is all about? Sure, we can be thankful for our delicious food and the chance to relax, but Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for SO much more than food, football, and early Christmas shopping.
Thanksgiving was first celebrated in Massachusetts in the year of 1621, in the month of December—not November. The Pilgrims had arrived in the New World one year earlier, and during that first year, 44 of the original 102 colonists died of scurvy and malnutrition. A major decrease in population that certainly took a toll on morale. They couldn't grow enough food for everyone, which meant many long months of hunger and starvation. At one point, the food rations were down to five corn kernels per person! Thankfully, an unexpected trading vessel showed up on their shores, allowing them to trade for severely needed grain.
Once the second year rolled around, the harvest was plentiful, and the colony's governor declared December 13, 1621 to be a day of feasting, joy, and celebration. They spent the day thanking God for all the blessings He had given them—a harvest, family, and friends.
God had blessed the colony with new friends in the nearby indigenous peoples. The Wampanoag chief signed a treaty of alliance with the Pilgrims that summer. Records show that around 90 tribesmen attended the first Thanksgiving celebration with the Pilgrims. These new friends brought turkeys and venison to add to the feast of goose, duck, turkey, fish, and of course, cornbread, the result of a bountiful corn harvest. Who could ask for anything more?
The Pilgrims celebrated by praying to God and singing songs. While the Wampanoag tribespeople were not Christians, they interacted with many believers, who surely shared their faith with their new friends. The colonists had fled religious persecution and now enjoyed the freedom to practice Christianity without being harassed by their government. That first Thanksgiving lasted several days!
Throughout the Bible, we can find lots of examples of God's people giving thanks. Just like the Pilgrims, the Israelites had fled persecution and then sang a song of thanksgiving after they successfully crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15). God had just delivered them from slavery to the Pharaoh and his army, so they were VERY thankful.
The Israelites often had feasts dedicated to the purpose of thanking God for His blessings. These feasts included the Feast of the Passover (Exodus 12:15-20), Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-36). The Israelites had a lot of reasons to give thanks to God.
The Book of Psalms gives us numerous songs of thanksgiving directed toward God. We can even find specific “thanksgiving psalms” noted in the Book of Psalms by biblical scholars. In all the Psalms of thanksgiving, the psalmist thanks God for His grace, provision, and love (Psalm 118:19; Psalm 34:1-3; Psalm 138:1-2). Those are things we can all be thankful for!
The New Testament says a lot about thankfulness, such as thanking God for His love, mercy, and grace. In everything we do and every circumstance, we ought to give thanks, allowing gratitude to saturate our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, emphasis added).
Believers ought to reflect on thanking God for His love, provision, and blessings each day. Jesus fully paid the penalty for our sins by sacrificing His life for us, and our gratitude for His gift is universal among Christ followers (John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23). Those who accept Jesus' gift of salvation no longer need fear separation from God. God's great gift of salvation through Christ is something we ought to regularly give thanks to God for.
Today's American celebrations of the Thanksgiving holiday have gotten a bit distorted from the original focus. Most families focus on food, football, and family fights. I hope your Thanksgiving is not filled with stereotypical family drama. As believers, our focus ought to be on God's provision in our lives.
This Thanksgiving, maybe you can set the example at the table. Remember our favorite verse, 1 Timothy 4:12? No matter how young you are, you can show others what it means to respectful, loving, and kind. Try sharing all the reasons you're thankful, including giving thanks to God. Who knows? It might start some interesting conversations! God will be smiling at your efforts—no matter how they're received.
We get it—life isn't always rainbows and unicorns. Our hearts aren't always happy. Circumstances aren't always ideal. Sometimes it's really hard to find something to be thankful for. And it's OK that it's hard sometimes.
Even if you can't find anything in life to be thankful for, remember that you have someone who cares about you immensely—cares enough to die for you so you can live eternally in paradise (John 3:16). You are still drawing breath, and you are covered by God's grace and mercy (John 1:17; Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
And you know what? We, at 412teens, are thankful for YOU!
Today's American celebrations of the Thanksgiving holiday have gotten a bit distorted from the original focus. Most families focus on food, football, and family fights. The Bible tells us that we need to be thankful in all situations, saturating our lives in gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We can give thanks to God in prayer, song, and throughout our daily lives. Even if you can't find anything in life to be thankful for, remember that you have someone who cares about you immensely—cares enough to die for you so you can live eternally in paradise (John 3:16).
Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.