Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you are like me, you are probably in the middle of ironing out details for family gatherings, figuring out what dishes you want to make, shopping for ingredients…and oh yeah, trying to figure out how to make sure your kids get the whole point of this holiday in the first place.
Thanksgiving, after all, isn’t just about turkey and family and football – it is first and foremost to be a day of Thanksgiving to God. Abraham Lincoln, after sharing a list of national blessings even amidst the Civil War, then said this as he established Thanksgiving as a National holiday:
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. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. (source)
This proclamation came 242 years after the first Thanksgiving feast. We have all heard the story of a vicious first winter that killed half of the Pilgrim settlers, and how the Wampanoag tribe helped the pilgrims learn to plant crops the following summer. That fall they had the first Thanksgiving feast.
But when you dig a little deeper into this story, you can see God’s hand in this beginning of our nation, particularly in allowing the Pilgrims to land near a friendly tribe, with an English-speaking Native American named Squanto.
They could have so easily landed somewhere with no help at all, but I believe God was preparing the way for them to survive as a colony as part of His greater plan. If Squanto and the Wampanoag hadn’t been there, would the Pilgrims have been able to grow enough food to survive another winter? Or would they have died away, with the Mayflower Compact and the roots of the United States Of America dying with them? And if there was no United States of America, what would have become of the world when dictators arose later, prompting the World Wars? It’s not a pleasant thought.
When we step back and see the big picture, it is amazing how God is working through the history of the world, including our country, to accomplish His purposes. He has worked even through a small band of God-fearing pilgrims, and a friendly Wampanoag tribe, and a Native American named Squanto.
I think it is important to share the story of the Thanksgiving holiday with our kids, not only so they will have a grasp of God’s hand in our history as a nation, but as a wonderful example of recognizing God’s hand in our own lives as well. He can work even suffering and trials out for His good purposes. These stories are reminders that there is a bigger picture, and we can thank God for the good He is working, even when we don’t see it right now.
If the pilgrims could thank God for the blessings He sent amidst a year of incredible sorrow and hardship, then we can thank Him in the midst of our hardships too. If Abraham Lincoln could see God’s blessings for our nation even as it was seemingly being ripped apart, if America could come together for the first national celebration of Thanksgiving at arguably the most tumultuous time in our history, then we should have no trouble counting our own blessings and thanking Him for His hand in our nation and homes today as well.
This Thanksgiving I’ll be pulling out the book Squanto And The Miracle Of Thanksgiving with my kids, to share some of this story of Thanksgiving with them. I want to point out how God was working then – because maybe that will help them to remember to keep their eyes peeled for how He is working today, so we can thank Him properly for the blessings He is showering on us even now.
What traditions do you have to help your kids remember God’s blessings in our families and nations at Thanksgiving?