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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.

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.

Thanksgiving is like a tree.

People who show genuine thankfulness are healthy people. It’s hard to truly be thankful and depressed at the same time. It’s hard to be self-centered and thankful. Thanksgiving allows us to grow outside of ourselves and appreciate not only what we have, but those who are responsible for what we have. Always remember that everything we have is the result of others, not just ourselves.

There are no “self-made” people!

Thanksgiving is also a source of protection. As we said, it protects us from self-centeredness and depression, but it also protects us from greed and laziness.

And Thanksgiving becomes a real resource in our everyday life. Thanksgiving gives us energy. Thanksgiving gives us a sense of joy. Thanksgiving helps create an attitude of gratitude that heals relationships and bridges to new friendships.

So we have a “Thanksgiving Tree” to remind us that thanksgiving is an attitude that grows, protects and can provide.

Something else about thanksgiving, it involves a to and a with. Thanksgiving must always be directed to someone and thanksgiving always involves others (the with part of thanksgiving).

Most importantly our Thanksgiving should be directed to God.

Isaiah 12:4 says, “Thank the Lord.”

We can and should thank others – but everything, everything, begins with God.

James 1:17 says, “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above…”

He does so much for us…listen to what the Psalmist said in Psalm 103

“I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things!...He revealed his will…He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:2-12

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