Why A Thanksgiving Day In 1976?

John G. Kruis is pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Sussex, New Jersey.

What an exciting time that was, the first Thanksgiving Day in America, in November 16211 The Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony had suffered much in their first year in the new land. About one half of the colony died in that first long, hard winter. But now things were beginning to look much better. With the help of the Indians they had set out to make a living for themselves by hunting, fishing, and farming. The Lord blessed them with a good harvest. Before November rolled around the com was shucked and stacked. Fruit was gathered in; vegetables were packed away in primitive storages. God was salted and meat cured.

In view of these blessings William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, summoned the Pilgrims to observe a special day of thanksgiving. He sent out men to shoot duck, geese, quails, and turkeys for the occasion. For three days the women baked, cooked, and prepared tables out of doors alongside the roughhewn benches. An invitation was sent out to their Indian friends to join them in their thanksgiving feast.

And so they came, the Indian braves, squaws, and children; some in feathers, some in furs, and some in animal skins. Chief Massasoit, we are told, presented the Pilgrims with five freshly killed deer. Together the Pilgrims feasted. By our standards today, they were still living in abject poverty. Y ct with hearts overflowing with gratitude they gave thanks to God for His loving favor, especially for the bountiful harvest and the religious freedom which they now enjoyed. So began the traditional Thanksgiving Day (designated by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as a national holiday).

But, why have a Thanksgiving Day in 1976? We are having difficult times. Right? It is difficult for many of us to make ends meet. The buying power of the dollar goes down about almost every monthMother shops at the supermarket for a few minutes, goes to the check-out counter; the check-out girl rings it up, “That will be $55.00, please,” she says. “I can’t believe,” says Mother, “I can’t believe, $55.00 for such a few groceries.” Dad gets the car serviced at the filling station. Most of a $20.00 bill is shot. Car prices continue to go up. Insurance premiums, medical bills, and hospital costs are sky high. The fuel bill continues to climb each year. And taxes! Income taxes, social security, sales taxes, property taxes. A big chunk of our income goes out in taxes each month.

Who doesn’t fail to be amazed each month at how fast the income passes through our hands? It goes like water, it seems. Why have a Thanksgiving Day in 1976?

Well, while we have been thinking about our difficult times, the high prices, high taxes, and all of the other things, have we given sufficient thought to the many blessings we have and enjoy? Have we, really?

Perhaps it‘s high time that we give ourselves a good talking to, as did the Psalmist when he wrote, “Bless Jehovah, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:1, 2).

We dont usually like the idea of a man talking out loud to himself. If he does that very much it seems to indicate that he is getting senile, at the least. But here the Psa lmist seems to be talking out loud to himself for a very good reason. Why? Apparently he has not been dwelling enough on Jehovah’s covenant love and faithfulness, not thinking enough about the blessings he has received. Consequently the Lord has not been receiving all the praise which is due to Him. That‘s wrong. It is sinful! He must develop the habit of dwelling more on the blessings he receives so that he will be thanking and praising God more. That holds true for us too.

Forget not all His benefits.” Think now of the bountiful harvest American farmers have already gathered in. Think of the bountiful supply at our disposal. There is more than we need. Think of all that good food that is brought home from the supermarket, the meat counter or the butcher shop. What a rich variety, and how conveniently packaged!

What is all this compared to that which the Pilgrims had on that first Thanksgiving Day? Think of the house you live in, for which you pay such high taxes or rent. What is that compared to the meager shelter the thankful Pilgrims had? Medical bills, hospital costs, hospitalization insurance high? No doubt about that. But, have we been thinking about the excellent medical care we get in time of sickness? Of the effective medicines, the advanced medical technology available to us? What is this compared to what the Pilgrims had when they lost about fifty out of the original 102 of their colony that first winter? Car expenses are indeed high. But have we been thinking of the luxurious transportation we have? What is that compared to the mode of transportation of the Pilgrims? And what about the generally high standard of living most of us enjoy, in spite of the high prices and high taxes? Have we been thinking about that ton? Why have a Thanksgiving Day in 1976?

Forget not all His benefits.” What about the freedom we enjoy? Have we forgotten about that? This is our Bicentennial year. Certainly we ought to be thankful for God’s blessing in preserving us as a nation. While many millions are suffering under the hands of cruel oppressors, we enjoy complete freedom. How thankful we ought to be!

All these blessings come to us in spite of our total unworthiness. What an ungodly nation we have become! We must exclaim with the Psalmist, “He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). How thankful we ought to be!

The most important of all these benefits is the gift of God‘s grace in Jesus Christ our Savior. It is because of that grace that we can sing with the Psalmist, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” In Christ, the Lord has met our most basic need. Having Him we are rich indeed!

Why have a Thanksgiving Day in 1976? Spurgeon once said, “It is not left to our own option whether we shall praise God or not. Praise is God‘s most righteous due, and every recipient of His grace, is bound to praise God from day to day . . . . You are bound by the bonds of His love to bless His name as long as you live, and His praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed in order that you may bless Him.”