Ed Jones, Pastor, Fellowship at the Ranch Church
The first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration held by the pilgrims of Plymouth colony in the 17th century.
Many myths surround the first Thanksgiving. Very little is actually known about the event, because only two firsthand accounts of the feast were ever written.
The first account is William Bradford’s journal titled Of Plymouth Plantation, and the other is a publication written by Edward Winslow titled Mourt’s Relations.
The pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving feast to celebrate the successful fall harvest. Celebrating a fall harvest was an English tradition at the time, and the pilgrims had much to celebrate.
The 53 pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were the only colonists to survive the long journey on the Mayflower and the first winter in the New World. Disease and starvation struck down half of the original 102 colonists.
These pilgrims made it through that first winter, and with the help of the local Wampanoag tribe, they had a hearty supply of food to sustain them through the next winter.
Guests at the feast included 90 Wampanoag Indians from a nearby village, including their leader Massasoit.
Although prayers and thanks were probably offered at this 1621 harvest gathering, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth happened two years later in 1623 after a two-month drought.
Four hundred years later, we will all gather on Nov. 25 to once again give thanks for all that we are and all that we have. In a time of nearly unprecedented turmoil, the question begs, “Why give thanks?”
The Bible is filled with commands to give thanks to God. Not only that, feeling and expressing appreciation is good for us. Like any wise father, God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given us. It is in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him. Without gratitude, we become arrogant and self-centered. We begin to believe that we have achieved everything on our own. Thankfulness keeps our hearts in right relationship to the Giver of all good gifts.
Giving thanks also reminds us of how much we do have. Human beings are prone to focus on what we don’t have. By giving thanks continually, we are reminded of how much we do have. When we focus on blessings rather than wants, we are happier. When we start thanking God for that which we usually take for granted, our perspective changes. We realize that we could not even exist without the merciful blessings of God.
We can have thankful hearts toward God, even when we do not feel thankful for the circumstance. We can grieve and still be thankful. Giving thanks to God keeps our hearts in right relationship with Him and saves us from a host of harmful emotions and attitudes that will rob us of the peace God wants us to experience.
So, to one and all, Happy Thanksgiving!
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. For information, visit Fellowship’s website www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com.