Summary: A simple explanation for why we as American Christians celebrate Thanksgiving
A. In 1621, at Plymouth Plantation – near Plymouth Rock – a group of Pilgrims gathered together in what was then called “The New World” to celebrate Thanksgiving.
1. These Pilgrims were just completing their first year in America.
2. 102 of these salty people had boarded the Mayflower to come forge a new life.
3. But on that autumn day of 1621, besides the 80 or so Native Americans, there were only ***53*** of them gathered around the table.
4. A lot had gone wrong in that first year in the New World.
a. But there was a lot that was right, as well.
b. Enough things right that it was worth celebrating.
B. With wisdom, our great country has continued this tradition.
1. In the midst of The Revolutionary War, America paused to celebrate a Thanksgiving
2. In the midst of The Civil War, President Lincoln emphasized that Americans offer Thanksgiving
3. In the midst of The Great Depression, President Roosevelt made sure that the United States celebrated Thanksgiving.
4. And so this Thursday – in the midst of TWO wars, and in the midst of a frightening economic recession – Americans will gather together as families to celebrate Thanksgiving.
C. But why?
1. As you might expect, I’ve got a few reasons for us…
I. To Remember
A. Joshua 4:1-9
1. (Explain passage -- pay close attention to providing context, really building up how THIS scene is the culmination of what had begun in Exodus 1)
2. “What do these stones mean?”
3. “What does this turkey mean? What’s this food for?”
B. Memory is important.
2. (Explain Passage)
C. (Talk about the example of the Lord’s Supper -- "Do this in Remembrance of Me")
II. To Keep Perspective
A. Ever been around a group of people talking about aches & pains?
1. Everybody’s gotta top the story of the person before them.
2. It’s easy to lose perspective in an attempt to top the other guy
B. Read Article from Bill Sherrill entitled "A Matter of Perspective"
C. Perspective helps us wake up to realize what our treasures are so that we’ll know what’s important enough for us to cherish & hold on to.
D. Rahm Emanuel on "Immigrant Culture"
III. To Keep Us From Turning Back
A. Read this excerpt from Chris Matthews on "The Chris Matthews Show" from November 2nd, 2008 (the final Sunday before the 2008 General Election)...
I have this notion of America that I’ve been working on. It’s romantic, but also drawn from our grittiest history, those waves of immigration that brought so many of us to this country. Wherever we came from, there were those who took a chance, pulled up stakes, threw off what they had and made the often risky, dangerous crossing to this new land. They made this most basic of all decisions -- "I will not live this way. It’s got to be better than this." Those were our grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents. And of course there were others, those who stayed home, who said, "I can live with this. Let’s just muddle through."
Well, we’re children of that first group, the ones who said, "No way am I putting up with this second-rate existence. I’m taking a chance. I’m going to America." Well, I think that’s in our blood.
B. (Bring the sermon full circle)
1. (Talk about those Pilgrims -- all 53 of them -- that were determined not to turn back. Despite the hardship, they knew they had it better than they did back in their homeland.)
2. (Talk about the Israelites who crossed the Jordan, who didn’t turn back. Despite the hardships behind them & ahead of them, they knew they had it better than they did back in Egypt.)
C. Thanksgiving helps us realize that we have it pretty doggone good.
1. Helps us stay determined to tough it out for the reward we know is coming.
2. Helps us realize what’s in our blood -- physically AND spiritually.