My guess would be that thankfulness does not come naturally for most of us. It seems we are more proficient at finding things that are wrong then celebrating all the good. It does not take much work to fixate on one thing that is not right and to ignore a multitude of things that are right. This week we celebrate Thanksgiving Day but I wonder how many of us will be thankful.
I wish that I was more thankful. The truth is I am learning to be more thankful each year as I let go of my expectations and accept that the Lord is in control of all things. The year 2020 has been one crazy year and it seems as nothing has gone as desired or event expected. It has been the year of expecting the unexpected. I am reminded of those celebrating the first three day Thanksgiving feast sometime between September and November of 1621.
Sometimes as we consider the plight of others, it helps us to be more thankful. The year 1620-1621 was a 2020 kind of year for pilgrims. They almost did not make it through that first winter so there was much to be thankful for. The previous years in England and Europe were difficult times for them. They were essentially forced to seek a new home due to religious persecution. The opportunity to start new in the New World was an answer to prayer. The next years would prove to be the hardest of their lives. The convoy that would bring this hopeful group, due to unexpected delays, did not set sail from their English port until late September of 1620. They would wind up spending a grueling 1- weeks at sea. As fortune would have it, the two ships of the Mayflower and Speedwell convoy were forced to turn back at the beginning of the journey due to structural failures. The Mayflower, cramped with passengers from both ships, traversed the Atlantic during the middle of the storm season that froze the deck. The sick passengers were running short of food and had to break into their reserves. Little did they know that out of the 102 pilgrims only 52 would survive the first year after landing in Cap Cod in November. To make matters worse their supplies had to be ferried to land with the last stretch being carried through freezing waters to shore. They managed to construct a few shelters that first East Coast winter. Things seems to go from bad to worse. Their settlement became overwhelmed with disease, death, exposure and despair. They lost 17 of their number in February alone. We can say it was not what they expected.
They did make it through the first year along with the indigenous people who were also struggling. The only record we have of that first Thanksgiving comes from the writing of the eye-witness Edward Winslow . He records that the two peoples celebrated the harvest with each other for three days. Winslow writes in December 1621, “And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
I am reminded of Paul’s challenge to the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18) Let us be intentional about striving to be thankful for all the blessings of the past year that the Lord has blessed us with!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson