Thanksgiving in its original concept was a time when the early settlers got together for the purpose of giving thanks and praise to God. The occasion was the gathering in of the harvest. This was accompanied with rejoicing and feasting. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621. The winter of 1620 had been disastrous; nearly half of the members of the colony had died. New hope came in the summer of ’21. The corn harvest was plentiful and Governor William Bradford decreed that a three-day feast would be held. From this time until 1863, no special day was set aside for Thanksgiving.
In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” For 75 years afterwards, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Roosevelt, in order to extend the shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, proclaimed Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated a week earlier. In 1941, by an act of Congress, Thanksgiving Day was made a legal holiday.
Nations down through the millenniums have had their own thanksgiving days. Israel’s first thanksgiving was held on the wilderness side of the Red Sea (see Exodus 15). They had experienced redemption equally as great as their deliverance from Egypt. They had witnessed an unparalleled display of the awesome glory and power of God. [Describe the action.] “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hands of the Egyptians. And Israel saw the great work which God did.” (Exodus 14:30-31) As they appreciated their deliverance, thanksgiving welled up in their hearts and found expression in song.
In Ezra 3, we have another thanksgiving. Thanksgiving seems to be generated after God moves in a crisis. Sons of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity. They had built an altar. Then they had laid the foundations of the Temple. In verse 11 we see that they sang together and praised the Lord. They gave “thanks unto the Lord because He is good and because His mercy endureth forever.”
We should be thankful for the land in which we live. [Describe our many blessings – see also Deuteronomy 8:7-19.] We should be thankful that the Lord came to Bethlehem. Luke 2:12 “Fear not, for behold I bring you great tidings of great joy—which shall be to all people. Unto you is born a Savior.” We should be thankful for our Savior, salvation, and our secure future. Consider the social changes that have been brought about, such as the emancipation of women.
In conclusion we should be thankful for the following:
1. For the abundance of the harvest and for our godly heritage. God bless and God save America.
2. For our perfect salvation, past, present and future (blood, powers, and experience).
3. For our freedom to worship.
4. For our victory in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 - “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 - “But thanks be unto God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.”)
5. For His unspeakable and indescribable gift (see 2 Corinthians 9:15).
6. For our spiritual blessings. He has chosen us, predestined us, and made us accepted in the beloved. He has redeemed us. He forgave our sins and has made known unto us the mystery of His will. In Christ, we have obtained an eternal inheritance; the Spirit has sealed us eternally.