I’m sure you have heard comments describing 2020 in negative terms. Or perhaps you’ve made some of those comments yourself. For everyone, this year has presented unique challenges. Pandemic, Black Lives Matter, wildfires, hurricanes, and to top it all off, a bitter and heated presidential election.
For some of you, this year has presented trials unlike any you have experienced before.
With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, it is good for all of us to reflect on God’s many blessings experienced in and through the trials of 2020. It is good to remember that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated on the other side of many trials as well. The winter of 1620 was unlike any winter they ever experienced. Around half the residents of Plymouth died. It was a hard season. But fall of 1621 brought with it new blessings. So the Pilgrims gathered with the Wampanoag natives, and gave thanks to the God of heaven! His mercy endures forever!
Whatever your Thanksgiving celebration looks like this year (whether modified or the same), we want to provide you with some edifying reminders of God’s goodness.
As you look toward tomorrow, 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!