by Russell Capps
You’ve already seen the Christmas sales ads and stores with full Christmas item displays while Thanksgiving is yet weeks away. That’s okay. Our economy needs to flourish. But let’s not ever forget Thanksgiving, including its wonderful, historic, spiritual roots.
The brave Pilgrims departed from Plymouth, England Sept. 6, 1620 on the Mayflower to seek out religious freedom in a new world and escape the English Act of Uniformity which demanded that all British citizens follow the traditions of the Church of England.
The potentially lethal voyage over the Atlantic with men, women, children, and sailors took 65 days. They ate cold food (no fire on a wooden ship), and wrote the Mayflower Compact, an agreement to become united as Pilgrims.
They elected John Carver as their first Governor. Initially they saw land near modern-day Cape Cod, but traveled north, first landing at what would become Provincetown before coming back to Plymouth. Their first winter was harsh. Food was scarce, snow was deep and many became sick and nearly half of the Pilgrims died. But it was worth it; the Pilgrims were free to worship God as they chose.
In March of 1621, an Indian named Samoset recognized that these pilgrims needed help. He saw that they were different from the sailors who had previously raided and attacked their villages. Squanto and his Wampanoag tribe taught the pilgrims how to survive, showing them how to get maple sap from the trees and how to grow native crops. He told them where to find the best fishing and hunting grounds, and helped the pilgrims and local Indian tribes learn to live together peacefully.
The Pilgrim Governor was so grateful that he declared that they should have a feast to thank God, to celebrate their new colony and to thank the Indians for showing them how to survive. This celebration lasted three days and became the foundation of our modern Thanksgiving, declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.
Sadly, there are many today who want to do away with any mention of God and godly values. That makes it ever more needful that we pause for a genuine day of grateful praise to the God who created all things and who holds it all together.
Many are suffering around the world today — catastrophic disasters, severe poverty and lack of any of the basic needs of daily life. But we here in America are indeed most blessed as a people In a land of plenty.
Yes, we love Christmas and all the Christmas season and celebration. But let us properly observe Thanksgiving this month. Then we can find fulfillment in December’s joys of Christmas.
Scripture reminds us that, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” As the meaningful song urges, let us “Give Thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks unto the holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son, and now let the weak say, ‘I am strong,’ let the poor say, ‘I am rich’ because of what the Lord has done for us. Give thanks.”
— J. Russell Capps, president, Wake County Taxpayers Association.