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Summary: The importance of gratitude at every point in the year

Thanksgiving 2004 October 10, 2004

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Since Canadian Thanksgiving is often overshadowed by the American Thnaksgiving, we might not realize the long tradition we have. The tradition of a harvest festival of Thanksgiving started in Europe, but The first North American Thanksgiving is traced back to 1578 when the English navigator Martin Frobisher held a formal ceremony in what is now called Newfoundland. It was a great party to give thanks for surviving the long journey across the Atlantic.

Forty years later, and also after crossing the ocean, French settlers led by Samuel de Champlain in Nova Scotia would hold huge feasts of thanks. They got a little more organized, formed "The Order of Good Cheer" and shared their food with Indian neighbours.

This would be around the same time as the American pilgrims gave thanks in 1621 for the bounty that ended a year of hardships and death.

For the next two centuries, people on both sides of the border would informally set aside a day in November to celebrate the harvest. But the Americans beat us to the punch, so to speak, when in 1863 Abe Lincoln’s government officially declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November.

Our Canadian Thanksgiving bounced around the calendar quite a bit. It was first celebrated as a national holiday on November 6, 1879. Many different dates were used after that, the most popular being the 3rd Monday in October. The thinking was that this simply made sense because of our shorter growing season. After World War I it was moved back to the second week of November to coincide with Armistice Day. But finally, in 1957, Parliament said enough’s enough and formally proclaimed the 2nd Monday of October as "a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."

There is a piece of Canadian tradition that could be at least as old as the tradition of celebrating one day of thanksgiving: the great Canadian tradition of grumbling and complaining about things.

It is as if Canadians cannot be happy unless there is something to complain about! In order to change this we do not need to change our circumstances, we need to begin to give thanks!

The story is told of two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, "What has the world done to you, my old friend?"

The sad fellow said, "Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars."

"That’s a lot of money."

"But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand free and clear."

"Sounds like you’ve been blessed...."

"You don’t understand!" he interrupted. "Last week my

great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million."

Now he was really confused. "Then, why do you look so


"This week... nothing!"

I am convinced that gratitude is one of the main keys to a happy life.

Dennis Prager writes in "Happiness is a Serious Problem." "There is a ’secret to happiness,’" Prager writes, "and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person."

Often times we think that it is things that will bring us happiness, but I’ve met happy and grumpy people who were poor, and I’ve met happy and grumpy people who were well-off, the difference was if they were grateful with what they had.

Gratitude Begins With Recognizing the Good.

Do you remember that little rhyme I taught you in the summer – I learned it as a teenager:

Two men looked out from prison bars

One saw mud, the other saw stars

What the rhyme speaks to me is that we have a choice as to what we see in life and what we live by. We can choose to be greedy or whiny, or we can choose to be grateful. To choose gratitude is to choose life

In her book, THE HIDING PLACE, Corrie Ten Boom relates an incident that taught her to be thankful for things we normally would not be thankful for. She and her sister, Betsy, prisoners of the Nazis, had just been transferred to the worst prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and infested with fleas. Their Scripture reading from their smuggled Bible that morning in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. Corrie finally agreed to somehow thank God for even the fleas.

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