Summary: A community Thanksgiving address recounting the contributions of the Puritans to our American Heritage, and challenging Christians to remember and preserve their Christian Heritage.
Community Thanksgiving Observance, 2013
“What Could Have Been Done More to My Vineyard, That I Have Not Already Done?
We owe a great debt to the Puritans of the New England colonies who started the tradition of Thanksgiving. I remember when as a kid in grade school we colored pictures of the Puritans for this season. Now-a-days the Turkey is substituted for the Puritans. That is a shame because along with forgetting the Puritans, much of America has forgotten the religious aspects of the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
America once very much a Christian nation. As a student of history I know this to be true. But I think it is no longer true. Those who attend church regularly are, even in our own community, in the minority today. And the true meaning of Thanksgiving has been lost to many Americans. That was not the case during the first years of our nation’s history.
The tradition of our annual day of Thanksgiving originated in the New England colonies many years before formal formation of the United States. Later, during the early years of the Republic, the tradition spread throughout the land. In those days, the majority Americans were Christian people. Even the Unitarians had the highest regard for scripture and for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us go back to this earlier time. I would like for us to examine the roots of the Thanksgiving holiday as it was first celebrated in New England, and in so doing it is my hope that we will rediscover our Christian heritage, and rededicate ourselves to its preservation.
I begin this evening by quoting from a typical address given at a typical celebration of Thanksgiving in early American New England. The speaker began, “In the services of our national holiday of Thanksgiving, we seem to be led by a natural law, to acknowledge and consider our position and our privileges. Gratitude and a sense of obligation are both appropriate responses to what we have been afforded by Divine Providence.”
Such words are typical of the many Thanksgiving Day addresses in New England during the years that forged our national character and gave birth to the republic. An understanding of these words were shared by nearly all people. Sadly today, the majority of our citizens do not understand the concept of natural law mentioned by that speaker. They know only man-made law, and, the majority of our people today feel little if any obligation to express gratitude toward God for His Divine Providence.
It is appropriate we remember what it meant to celebrate Thanksgiving in colonial and early America. It is not appropriate to denigrate this day by calling it “Turkey Day”. As President of these United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide Thanksgiving celebration marking November 26, 1789, as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many… favors of Almighty God.” How foreign, how obscene it would have seemed to him as president for the focus of news coverage of his proclamation of Thanksgiving to be focused instead upon the issuing of a presidential pardon for a turkey. Maybe, if he had a sense of humor, he might smile at such a thing. But I think he would be greatly disturbed that we as a nation have forgotten to acknowledge with grateful hearts the many favors of Almighty God
Our nation is no longer a Christian nation, though it once was. During the early formative years of our nation, all citizens would have attended a Thanksgiving Service. Tonight we who honor the Lord have been reduced to a minority. Why is this? Has God offended the people of America? Has God abandoned us? Has God let us down? What more could God have done for us than he has already done?
God committed the forming of our government and the framing of our Constitution to men of great intellectual and moral strength. The educated of the colonies became the first leaders in America. And the educated were, by virtue of their education, Christian. To be educated in colonial America meant having gained an understanding of and appreciation for the Bible.
The early Christians of New England were a people who possessed a rare combination of profound learning, deep piety, and practical energy. They were not mere adventurers fortunate to have succeeded in their efforts, but rather people of great learning, great energy, healthy of character, and possessing a deep and serious religion. We can hardly overestimate the blessing of having had such people lay the foundations and construct the institutions of our land.
To them, we owe the deep conviction of the sacredness of the Sabbath, and the universal and unquestioned authority of the Bible interpreted through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. To them, we owe the hereditary respect, which is given to the preaching of the gospel, and the ordinances of religion. The restraints which they imposed upon vice, and the clear vision they had to form and perpetuate a high standard moral behavior contributed to the excellence of the early laws of the land. A brief comparison with other parts of the world will show how much we owe to the wisdom of those who established our nation based