Devotional – Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Mayflower II Under Sail

Happy 400-Year Anniversary!

Here we are, almost in the middle of November, 2020. We have endured eight months of the pandemic and uncomfortably settled into our “new normal.” And who knows how much longer before there’s an effective vaccine and/or the virus is under control? There’s plenty of room for despair, if you are so inclined.

But wait! It’s Thanksgiving season! In our previous lives we would be getting ready for that grand church tradition — our Thanksgiving fellowship dinner! Turkeys and hams would be distributed for preparation, special holiday recipes would be pulled out of the cookbooks, and the tables would be festively set. All would be welcome to partake of the bountiful feast — so much wonderful food with plenty for to-go boxes. And the purpose of the celebration? To give thanks to God for our many blessings.

I looked up a refresher about the first Thanksgiving. In the fall of 1620, 102 passengers and a crew of 30 set sail on the Mayflower from England to America. They had chosen to make the journey in search of a new “promised land” where they could practice their religion freely. The Mayflower’s living area was about 1600 square feet, and the treacherous voyage took 10 weeks. The Pilgrims dropped anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1620. Their colony at Plymouth became the first permanent European settlement in New England.

Only about half of the original Pilgrims made it through that first winter in the New World. With the help of the Wampanoag Indians, they learned food gathering, cultivation and other survival skills. In the fall of 1621, members of the colony and their Wampanoag friends thankfully celebrated their successful harvest with feasting, dancing, singing and games.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation officially making the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day.

When I think about the hardships encountered by the Pilgrims four hundred years ago, I realize it’s a wonder any of them lived. I can easily understand how thankful the survivors must have been at the end of their first year in their new home land.  In a way, we are like the Pilgrims, struggling to negotiate a new way of life in uncharted territory. Things we never thought possible — masks and social distancing — have become part of our daily lives. Through it all, can we still find thankfulness?

Psalm 100:4-5 states:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
And his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, 5:16-18, he writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 provides, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Notice the Bible doesn’t say that we should only give thanks when we are happy with the way things are going.   

This Thanksgiving season may be a good time to consider God’s amazing love for us. We do indeed have much to be thankful for, in good times and bad. To paraphrase one of my favorite hymns, these blessings are all ours, and ten thousand beside! (From “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” by Thomas O. Chisolm)


Offered by Mary Thompson

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