Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? The answer isn't as easy as you might think. In November 1621, after the pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast, which included a group of the colony’s Native American allies. This is often remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving” although that term wasn't used at the time.
In 1777, the Continental Congress issued the First National Thanksgiving
Proclamation: "It is therefore recommended ... to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise: ... that the people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine benefactor ... that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ ... to afford his blessing on the governments of these States respectively ... and to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace...."
Thanksgivings were observed at various times through the years that followed on both the national and state levels; then, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln enacted it as a national holiday on the fourth Thursday in November. Lincoln's proclamation asked that all Americans pray that God “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Thanksgiving has lost most of its religious significance today. Some families offer a prayer before Thanksgiving dinner, but that's about the extent of it. But perhaps that's okay. Because the Bible tells us that if we follow Christ, we are to give thanks always. We should live in a perpetual state of thanksgiving and not be limited to one day a year (or even one day a week).
Today isn't Thanksgiving, but it's a day for thanksgiving. "Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul." (Ps. 103:22). What are you thankful for this morning?