Saturday Sermon: Give thanks unto the Lord

By Mike Singenstreu

Thanksgiving seems to be such an enigma today. Oh, not the eating and celebrating part . that's not the problem. It is the giving thanks part that seems to be the problem. Who do we give thanks to and for what?

In our culture, we prize doing things ourselves. So if that is the case . that you have provided for yourself then would you be giving thanks to yourself on Thanksgiving? Giving thanks by its very nature requires that it be aimed at someone, but since we have been so indoctrinated to only think of ourselves or to give some general thanks for things, then let me refresh you, a moment, as to why we in this country do in fact celebrate Thanksgiving and to whom proper thanks is due.

The Thanksgiving story that most of us are familiar with starts in 1621, in Plymouth Colony, Mass. Life was hard for the Pilgrims, and through the first winter the tiny colony endured hunger and privation. Nearly all of them fell ill, and only half survived the winter.

But spring came, the crops were planted, and the first harvest proved bountiful. Gov. William Bradford called a special feast to give thanks to the Creator. They celebrated for a week, along with 100 Native Americans that they invited to join with them.

The Pilgrims did not give thanks to the Native Americans; they invited them to join in giving thanks to God - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God made known in Jesus Christ.

Other thanksgiving days were held in Florida, Maine and Texas. Virginia colonists wrote into their charter that the day of their arrival was to be "kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."

On Oct. 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the last Thursday of November 1863 would be set aside as a nationwide celebration of thanksgiving. His proclamation stated that: "No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy ... I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November next as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent father who dwells in heaven."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the celebration to the third Thursday in November "to give more shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas." Ever since this pragmatic and commercial approach to Thanksgiving was promoted, its original meaning has steadily been lost.

Today, we don't hear much about thanking Almighty God. Instead, we are urged to conjure up a generic gratefulness directed to nobody in particular. Let us not succumb to such idle talk, and let us be found once again to be a nation known for Thanksgiving to Almighty God for His mercy and grace.

Mike Singenstreu is pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, PCA.