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Plymouth Rock

Why Do We Really Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Many people think of Thanksgiving as a wonderful time of enjoying a long
weekend, and eating a great dinner. Or, perhaps they view it as the start
of the Christmas, "Holiday" season. While these aspects may describe
Thanksgiving they are not the real meaning behind it.

The American tradition of Thanksgiving can be traced to the year 1623.
Having gathered the harvest in November 1623, the governor of the
Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, proclaimed: "All ye Pilgrims with your
wives and little ones, do gather at the Meeting House, on the hill... there to
listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all
His blessings." The pilgrims were to demonstrate their gratitude to God
for their survival.

They had undergone terrific hardships in their migration to their new
homes. After sailing 9 weeks on the open seas, the 102 puritans arrived
in America on Nov. 9, 1620. That first winter was very difficult and they
were not really prepared for the hardships they were to endure. It was
difficult for them to care for the sick because the sick out-numbered those
who were healthy. By the end of the winter, many lives had been lost. It
has been estimated that as many as one-half of the pilgrims may have
died. The years that followed were filled with hard work and uncertainty.
Still, they were comforted and encouraged by the Lord and were grateful
for His blessing during those difficult years.

Over 150 years later, On November 1, 1777, by order of Congress, the
first National Thanksgiving was proclaimed and signed by the President
of the Continental Congress. The third Thursday of December, 1777 was
designated "for solemn thanksgiving and praise. That with one heart and
one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their
hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine
Benefactor;... and their humble and earnest supplication that it may
please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and
blot them (their manifold sins) out of remembrance... That it may please
Him... to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for
cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety under His nurturing
hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and
enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth of 'righteousness, peace
and joy in the Holy Ghost'..."

George Washington wrote a proclamation in which Thursday, the 19th day
of February, 1795 was set aside as a National Day of Thanksgiving. He
stated that it is "our duty as a people, with devout reverence and
affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to
lmighty God, and to implore Him to continue is our duty as a people, with
devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many
and great obligations to Almighty God, and to implore Him to continue
and confirm the blessings we experienced..."

On October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln and the U.S Congress established
the first annual National Day of Thanksgiving "on the last Thursday of
November, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father
who dwelleth in the heavens."

So it is that on Thanksgiving each year, Americans give thanks to God,
acknowledging His blessings toward us throughout the year. Our gratitude
is not directed toward our jobs, our successes, our material blessings or
our health; but rather we give thanks to our God for the grace and mercy
He has granted.

   Bible References upon which to reflect:

Psalm 69:30 "I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with
Psalm 100:4 "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with
praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." 
Eph. 5:4 "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse
joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." 
Phil. 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by
prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to


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