Do you ever feel like you or your family is missing the point of the holidays? Here we are with Thanksgiving upon us, and we've done all the prep (even to the point of dusting behind those knick-knacks that never get moved from the top shelf). We've mentally readied ourselves for the inevitable discussions that ensue when we have the relatives over, and we've already reminded ourselves twice not to bring up politics while Uncle Mark is around.
Yet in all our planning, we often overlook the true opportunity afforded us at Thanksgiving. Sure, most of us offer a substantial prayer of thanks to the Lord for our salvation and His goodness to our family before digging into the heaping plate of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. But unfortunately, much of the dining room table conversation afterward veers far afield from the things of God.
As Christ followers, Thanksgiving should be so much more than just relishing tasty dishes and soaking up time with family. It’s a providential opportunity to declare our dependence on our God and find refreshing encouragement in the faithful Christian witness of those American Christians who came before us.
As you look toward tomorrow’s celebration of Thanksgiving, and desire to redeem the time, I'd like to encourage you with these 4 Thanksgiving Read-Aloud Stories from American History.
Throughout the history of our country, there were four unique periods in which our gracious God chose to pour out a special blessing of mercy upon the nation. In this short series, we chronicle these amazing outpourings as one more way to remember His mercies this Thanksgiving.
Read these vignettes to your family in the spirit of gratitude and rejoicing!
Do you remember the difference between the Puritans and the Pilgrims?
The Puritans were the ones who mistakenly believed they could reform the Church of England. By contrast, the Pilgrims were Separatists — a group of Protestants who yearned to separate and form their own church in order to properly obey God’s commands.
What you might not know is that three of the Pilgrim pastors -- John Penry, Henry Barrow, and John Greenwood -- were executed by hanging at St. Thomas-a-Watering in Central London on May 29, 1593. Their crime? They were found guilty of authoring books that dared to underscore the local church’s obligation to oversee their own congregations.
It was this heavy-handed persecution – at the hands of the Church of England no less – that animated the Pilgrims to journey first to Holland, then to America in order to taste true religious liberty. All they desired was the freedom to practice their beloved Christian faith in a way that honored their Savior.
After a 66-day-long journey across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower, the 102 Pilgrims and crew came ashore at Plymouth, Massachusetts on November 11, 1620. Read aloud the story about that First Thanksgiving during your family celebration tomorrow.
Learn about that first harsh New England winter which claimed the lives of half of the settlers. Learn why the Pilgrims were so grateful to God for the Natives who taught them how to plant corn as well as how to hunt and fish in that area.
No doubt, during that First Thanksgiving in 1621, when King Massasoit and a hundred other Natives arrived to join the European Pilgrims for a 3-day, God-centered celebration, they ate copious amounts of deer. After all, according to Plymouth Governor Edward Winslow, the Sachem brought five freshly-killed deer which took center stage in the midst of the harvest of corn, squash, beans, and barley. Imagine turkey as a side dish!
That divinely-inspired partnership between the Natives and the Pilgrims ensured the Pilgrims’ physical survival and the Natives’ spiritual conversion. That first Thanksgiving was a foretaste of people from all nations worshipping the Lamb of God in Heaven as together they witnessed the birth of America’s unique holy day of gratitude to Almighty God for His mercies.
Based on Psalm 92, Russian hymnist Dmitry Bortniansky wrote a beloved Thanksgiving hymn entitled “How good it is to thank the Lord” in the late 1700s. Savor the words more than you savor your turkey tomorrow.
How good it is to thank the Lord,
And praise to Thee, Most High, accord,
To show Thy love with morning light,
And tell Thy faithfulness each night;
Yea, good it is Thy praise to sing,
And all our sweetest music bring.
When as the grass the wicked grow,
When sinners flourish here below,
Then is there endless ruin nigh,
But Thou, O Lord, art throned on high;
Thy foes shall fall before Thy might,
The wicked shall be put to flight.
The righteous man shall flourish well,
And in the house of God shall dwell;
He shall be like a goodly tree,
And all his life shall fruitful be;
For righteous is the Lord and just,
He is my Rock, in Him I trust.
You can read more on the mercies of God and the blessings of God on this nation through the years in the Generations' recent publications America In God's Providence and American Faith: 27 Sketches from Winthrop to Wilkerson. These are great read-aloud books for your whole family!
After printing out these 4 Thanksgiving Read-Aloud Stories from American History, why not read one or two aloud during the Thanksgiving meal? Ask questions. Invite feedback. Above all, seek to give God the glory He deserves this season. Happy Thanksgiving!