Today is, in the United States, the national observance of Thanksgiving to God for all his blessings in 2015 and commemoration of the first American Thanksgiving which took place in the Plymouth Colony in 1621.
Special days of fasting and mourning for sin and special days of feasting and celebration were common and frequent elements in the life of the 17th Century Puritans. What made that first recognized Thanksgiving celebration on US soil, in 1621, to be such a notable event is the fact that it is the first that was thoroughly documented. Those Plymouth Pilgrims suffered so many great difficulties in their first year in the New World, in their quest for religious freedom, that the first great harvest that God bestowed upon them was incredibly sweet.
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year! It is the quintessential Protestant Holiday! It is the hearty, sincere, and humble acknowledgement that every good gift comes from the Father above (Ja 1:17) and it is a day to remember the great history and great blessings that we have as a free people in this country.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (Ja 1:17)
Necessity of Thanksgiving
Christians are commanded by Scripture to be thankful people. No people have received as much as we have, and consequently, no other people should feel as compelled as we are to live our lives in a state of constant gratitude and prayer.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thes. 5:18)
Elements of Thanksgiving Worship
Some traditional elements of Thanksgiving worship that you can use in your family gathering today include: the recitation of Psalm 100, recitation of Puritan Minister Edward Reynold’s Prayer of Thanksgiving from the 1662 BCP, and hymns of Thanksgiving.
A Psalm of Praise; or rather of thanksgiving. This is the only psalm bearing this precise inscription. It is all ablaze with grateful adoration, and has for this reason been a great favourite with the people of God ever since it was written (Charles Spurgeon).
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness:
come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God:
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth to all generations.
On this Psalm, Charles Sprugeon comments:
In all our public service the rendering of thanks must abound; it is like the incense of the temple, which filled the whole house with smoke. Expiatory sacrifices are ended, but those of gratitude will never be out of date. So long as we are receivers of mercy we must be givers of thanks. …Be thankful unto him. Let the praise be in your heart as well as on your tongue, and let it all be for him to whom it all belongs. And bless his name. He blessed you, bless him in return; bless his name, his character, his person. Whatever he does, be sure that you bless him for it; bless him when he takes away as well as when he gives; bless him as long as you live, under all circumstances…
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you
for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world
by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray,
give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts
we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
In honor of that first great Pilgrim harvest in Plymouth, let us sing “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” and as we remember the great harvests the Lord has brought in our own lives this Thanksgiving, let us also remember the great harvest which is yet to occur at the last day (Matt 13:24-30).
Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!
We ourselves are God’s own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take the harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
All offences purge away,
Giving angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In the garner evermore.
Then, thou Church triumphant come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All be safely gathered in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In God’s garner to abide;
Come, ten thousand angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home!
We Gather Together
This Dutch hymn was written in 1597 to celebrate Dutch independence and freedom from Wicked Roman Catholic oppression.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:19-20)