Summary: Pre-Thanksgiving Sermon. Each year since the founding of FamilyFellowship we have added "leaves" to a tree. We give each person a paper leaf and ask then to write their greatest "thanks" for the year. Then we take time to add the leaves to a tree.

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The Thanksgiving Tree - Thanksgiving 2005

The Story of Thanksgiving…

Most of us already know the “official story” of Thanksgiving. Over 350 years ago a group of early settlers called “Pilgrims” landed at Plymouth Rock in Rhode Island. They had a very rough winter, but with the help of several “indigenous peoples” (Indians) who just happened to speak English (another long story), they made it through the winter.

Squanto and Samoset (these two indigenous peoples) eventually introduced Capitan Miles Standish and the other Pilgrims to Massasoit, the “indigenous peoples” leader. That fall the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest by inviting some of their “indigenous people” friends and their families to a feast of thanksgiving. Turns out that Squanto and Samoset had large families and ninety-one Indians showed up for dinner. In the end it was the Indians who actually brought most of the food for the feast which lasted three days.

Who ever said church people don’t know how to “potluck”? We’ve been doing it for hundreds of years! That was in the June of 1621.

But that wasn’t actually the first Thanksgiving after all. Actually, God’s people had been celebrating their own Thanksgiving for over 3000 years!

Almost 3000 years earlier – God told His people to celebrate Thanksgiving! Look with me at Deuteronomy chapter sixteen:

“Count off seven weeks from the beginning of your grain harvest. Then you must celebrate the Festival of Harvest to honor the LORD your God. Bring him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him. It is a time to celebrate before the LORD your God at the place he chooses for his name to be honored. Celebrate with your whole family, (your sons, your daughters), all your servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, so be careful to obey all these laws.” Deuteronomy 16:9-12(NLT)

That was 3000 years before the first Colonial Thanksgiving.

God called it the Feast of Weeks and if you notice it involved two key elements – the same elements that are always involved in thanksgiving: thanks and giving.

That’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a national holiday today, but it has long been a religious, holy day and a command from God for His people.

So why a “Thanksgiving Tree”?

Well, first of all, it looks really cool! And after the service today it will look even better. It will also have a lot of significance once we all finish it this morning.

But a tree represents a lot of important symbols.

A tree represents health and growth. When you see a tree growing you know that it is healthy. When it has a lot of leaves on it’s branches you know that it’s doing well.

A tree also provides protection, shelter, shade. Who doesn’t like to sit under a tree on a warm day or maybe dodge under one during a rain?

And a tree is a resource. You can get nourishment from a tree. You can use it’s wood for many things. And if you treat it right, another tree will grow from the first.

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