Every year we host students in our home for Thanksgiving. Today we will have just shy of three dozen. They come from around the world and find it difficult to make it home for such a short break.
Since Thanksgiving in a novel cultural experience for many of them, I always give a quick explanation before the meal. For the curious, here’s what I’m planning to say today:
American Thanksgiving traces its roots back to 1621 when the European colonists of Plymouth Plantation celebrated their first harvest on the new continent. 45 colonists and 90 native Americans celebrated together for a three-day feast.
This became a custom in many colonies, but the schedule and the details of the celebration would vary from place to place. On October 3, 1789 George Washington called for the first Federal Thanksgiving with this proclamation. It’s a bit long so I’m going to read the highlights:
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
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….
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….
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
That proclamation regarded a single occurrence, not a yearly event. A few generations later on October 3, 1863 Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday which we still celebrate to this day.
I am a Christian, and so this day is very special to me because gratitude is at the heart of Christianity.
As the apostle tells us in 1 Thess 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (ESV)
And we do this because even when circumstances are bad, God is good. As we read in Psalm 107:1
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (ESV)
And so this Thanksgiving, join me as we offer thanks for the food.
Creator God, we are grateful for your provision of a universe for us to inhabit filled with wonderful things, including delicious food. Help us to enjoy it and the conversations that fill this room. Most of all, thank you for giving us Jesus as a savior and a Lord. Today we declare with the Psalmist: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, ESV)
Now let us eat with grateful hearts!