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The First Thanksgiving

by Pastor Tom Anderson


In December of 1620, the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts. One hundred and two settlers disembarked. When they made shore they gathered together and got on their knees to pray. This is how America began: people on their knees in thankful prayer.


With the ship anchored nearby, the 102 intrepid pilgrims began to build rough shelters for the winter. By spring, 47 of them were dead.


A fateful moment came in spring when the Mayflower weighed anchor. They were alone in the wilderness. As it happened one of the Native Americans in the area had actually learned English years earlier when he had been taken to England by some fisherman who had visited the coast. What are the odds that in a million miles of coastline, these English settlers would land in a spot where the only English-speaking Indian on the entire continent was living? There are no coincidences, only God’s providence!


His name was Tisquantum. He taught them farming and hunting techniques for the New World. If that wasn’t enough, he singled handedly negotiated a peace treaty that endured for the rest of the century.


By fall of 1621, things were looking positive. Governor Bradford declared a day of thanksgiving and invited some 90 natives to join them in a harvest feast. It was a limited menu: geese, ducks, venison, turkey, boiled pumpkin and cornbread. There was no pie but there surely was prayer and reading from the scriptures for the Puritans were devout and godly people. This event is at the core of the holiday we now call Thanksgiving.


What a country we live in! Commentators give an endless stream of gripes, complaints and criticism. This Thanksgiving, be brave and turn off the grouch machine and start counting blessings. A godly person is one whose thanksgiving list is twice as long as their grievances.


America began as a band of half-starved pilgrims. Their hands were blistered from digging graves. Even so, they had the sense to be on their knees thanking God for freedom, opportunity, and especially for the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. The renewal of our country does not begin with elections, legislatures or schools, but it begins where America began, on our knees!


In 1621 Governor Bradford wisely invited more than 90 natives to join the 55 surviving settlers at the dinner table. This is the narrative that gives America its fundamental nobility: ours is a nation founded by Christian believers but remaining open to all.


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