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From Our Pastor
Some undetermined time in the fall of 1621 the survivors of the Plymouth Colony had a harvest celebration. The primary purpose was to celebrate being alive after the first awful winter in the New World. One hundred two people had landed in this new land in November 1620, as the harsh New England winter was already underway. They found this place to be difficult and living to be hard. Of the 102 that landed, fifty-three survived. This first celebration found them both alive and, because they had a good harvest and assistance from the Native Americans in hunting, with plenty of food for the coming winter. This was truly a celebration of living that lasted three days and included their Native American counterparts in the celebration. There were other celebrations of thanksgiving among the early colonists that did not involve food but instead involved a time of prayer and fasting in thankfulness for events or simply thankfulness to God for all they had received.
Neither of those celebrations was the first time of giving thanks or of a harvest festival. Exodus 23:16 gives us the instructions for two festivals that relate to our planting and harvesting that were required in the Old Testament. “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” The second festival is a celebration of what God has done in providing food for the people. They recognize the reliance of the people on the creator who has blessed them with the weather, the seed, and the labor to produce the crops that needed to be stored for the winter; the time crops don’t grow and provide for us. Not only did the people of Israel celebrate the harvest, but the Romans, the Greeks, the Chinese, and the Egyptians had similar celebrations. Each of these focused on being thankful to the gods they believed in and served for the bounty of the Earth. The celebration of the harvest is in recognition of the bounty of the land provided by a loving deity in most, if not all, ancient cultures.
So what does that mean for us today? It seems Thanksgiving has become a time for overeating and football for many in our culture. I wonder how many even remember the reason for our celebration. I know people who share what they are thankful for around the table before eating the huge meal. I know many who don’t as well. But I wonder how many just stop to be thankful they are still alive? In our country we no longer face the fear of starvation and death as they did in 1621; we are, for the most part, a land of plenty. Likewise, too many don’t even see a need to be thankful to God for what they have. They see the bounty of the harvest as no more than the labor of their hands and the use of good agricultural methods and chemicals. It is humbling to stop and be thankful to someone else that we are even alive, but, as Christians, we believe that we are to be thankful to God because we are His creation and all that we are and have is a gift from His gracious and loving hand. Wow that’s a lot to be thankful for! I wonder what would happen in our world if we as the church (not just First UMC Titusville or even the UMC, but all of the body of Christ), stopped for one day and were truly thankful for just being alive and what would be the result? We live in such a hurry that even on the day we have set aside to be thankful we have to rush through the dinner so some members of the family can go to another celebration or can finish in time to watch “the big game” or take a nap to sleep off the turkey. Maybe we are struggling so much with having to deal with Uncle Joe or Aunt Sally and worrying about what comment they will make that will start a huge issue in the family that we can’t be thankful. I would venture to say if we all just took the day to focus on what God has done for us as people and the ways in which we have been blessed while putting aside our worries and fears for that one day we would find not only a time of thankfulness but also a time of blessings.
I pray for you and your family this Thanksgiving; a day of thankfulness, grace, and blessings.
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