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  • Baptist Beacon

Thanksgiving: Where did it go?

by Tim Patterson

PLYMOUTH, MI – The question I have is, where did it go? You know, Thanksgiving. Back to school sales were displayed in every store beginning in August, and then came the adornments for Halloween. The next thing I saw was Christmas decorations and those came up before the jack-o-lanterns came down. In many retail establishments Halloween and Christmas are displayed simultaneously.

My question is, what happened to Thanksgiving?

I have diligently searched for Thanksgiving specific items, (not Fall) and when I did find some decorations or advertisements for this great national celebration most of it had nothing to do with giving thanks. A few turkeys, cute pilgrims and fall colors or leaves, but little or nothing proclaiming our thanks to our God and Creator for His benevolent provision.

Apparently it is not politically correct to give thanks to God. Happy holidays is as close as they come.

With all that has transpired over the past two and a half years, it seems to me to be a “no brainer” that we need to give thanks to God now more than ever. We need to be thankful to God for His wonderful provision and protection. We need to thank Him for our health and His healing. We need to thank Him that He is on the throne of heaven and controls the affairs of man and not our politicians. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Many want to play the part of historical revisionist and deny the intent and purpose of this holiday but the fact remains it is a call for the people of our great nation to pause and be thankful to a benevolent and gracious God.

Just as a reminder, Thanksgiving Day in the United States is an annual day of thanks for the blessings of the past year. It is observed on the fourth Thursday in November in each of the states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It has its historical roots as a national, and religious holiday that began with the Pilgrims.

After the survival of their colony through the first bitter winter, and the gathering of the harvest, Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony issued a thanksgiving proclamation in the autumn of 1621:

"Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all blessings."

That first Thanksgiving lasted three days, during which the Pilgrims feasted on wild turkey and venison with their Indian guests. Days of thanksgiving were celebrated sporadically until, on Nov. 26, 1789, President Washington issued a proclamation of a nation-wide day of thanksgiving.

He made it clear that the day should be one of prayer and giving thanks to God. It was to be celebrated by all religious denominations, a circumstance that helped to promote a spirit of common heritage. It would be another 100 years and the end of a bloody civil war before President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November Thanksgiving. The year was 1865. It might surprise you to learn that it took still another 40 years, the early 1900’s, before the tradition really caught on.

The origin, purpose and history of the Thanksgiving holiday is complete and without question. This day was established for the sole purpose of giving thanks back to God for what He has given us.

As with so many of our religious holidays, Thanksgiving seems to have lost its meaning and purpose, or at least the way it is celebrated. As a nation, it would behoove us to return to a humble gratitude toward our Father who is our source and supply. What if He were to cease being our source? I remember one such story illustrates this well.

“One day the sun did not rise. Six o'clock came and there was no sign of dawn. At seven o'clock, there was still no ray of light. At noon, it was as black as midnight. No birds sang and only the hoot of an owl broke the silence. Then came the long black hours of the afternoon. Finally, evening arrived but no one slept that night. Some wept, some wrung their hands in anguish. Every church was thronged with people on their knees. Thus they remained the whole night through. After that long night of terror and agony, millions of eager, tear-streaked faces were turned toward the east. When the sky began to grow red and the sun rose, there was a loud shout of joy. Millions of lips said, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" because the sun had risen after one day of darkness.``

The very consistency of God's blessings sometimes seems to dull our gratitude. We take for granted and assume that these blessings are deserved and will naturally occur.

The wonderful thing about the mercies of God for a Christian is that they are fresh every morning and new every evening. We don’t deserve them nor His gracious provision yet because He is God and He cannot do that which is contrary to His nature, we are the blessed recipients of His divine favor.

Let us remember to be constantly thankful to our gracious God.

There is a story in Luke 17:11-17 that tells of 10 lepers who were healed:

Now it happened  as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice  glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a  Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

We must never forget it is always a good and godly thing to be thankful.



Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.


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