Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Health Care and a Day of Thanks
The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, to commemorate the harvest reaped by the Plymouth Colony after a harsh winter. In that year Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. The colonists celebrated it as a traditional English harvest feast, to which they invited the local Wampanoag Indians. Days of thanksgiving were celebrated throughout the colonies after fall harvests. All thirteen colonies did not, however, celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time until October 1777. George Washington was the first president to declare the holiday, in 1789.
Thanksgiving is a holiday, special and well-commemorated to express gratitude and appreciation, and as well as a sincere thanksgiving, offered to God for all His blessings, and as well as to the family, loved ones and friends for all their support. Traditionally, it has been the day to give thanks for a harvest that is bountiful and rich. Unfortunately, modern time Thanksgiving celebration is primarily identified as a secular holiday, with Thanksgiving dinner consisting of baked or roasted turkey is usually the main highlight of the holiday. Current society treats it often as the official start of the Christmas holiday season, with football games on TV, shopping til you drop, and endless relatives who don't know when to leave your house. Instead of considering the day in quiet contemplation and joyous celebration of life, Thanksgiving is considered a great day to catch up on your sleep and spend money.
The Mayflower's voyage to the new world was a "survival test" on a huge scale, according to BillyGraham.org. The passengers had sold their possessions and had to work for years to pay for their passage. The ship had no heat or plumbing. Storms raged, and a main beam cracked in mid-ocean. But after more than two months on the Atlantic Ocean, this band of 102 people arrived before Christmas, 1620. William Bradford wrote in his journal, "Being thus arrived at a good harbor, and brought safely to land, they fell on their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof." But just after Christmas a serious sickness broke out, and in the next three months nearly half the Pilgrims died. Hunger and illness stalked them, but they never wavered in their purpose.
Today, Americans can learn these six lessons from the Pilgrims:
(1.) Be Strong in Your Faith--First, the Pilgrims have left us an example of their deep, unwavering religious convictions. What were these convictions? They believed in Christ and in His Kingdom. They found fulfillment in Him. They had purpose in their lives. They had encountered the living Christ and they knew it. They feared neither monarch nor people, only God. Because they belonged to God, they had a deep faith and confidence in themselves. They believed in their own dignity, were confident that their cause was just, and walked with an uprightness that only fearless and free people can display. Agnosticism, anxiety, emptiness, meaninglessness, have gripped much of the world—and even the Church. People are broad but shallow. Today's youth are desperately searching for purpose and meaning and fulfillment in their lives. By contrast, these Pilgrim forebears stand as shining examples of people who were narrow but deep, certain of what they believed, unswerving in their loyalty, and passionately dedicated to God whom they trusted and for whom they willingly would have died. A return to biblical faith and conviction would have a great impact at this hour.
(2.) Practice Discipline--Second, the Pilgrims left an example of disciplined living. They were Puritans who were ready to order everything—personal life, worship, the church, business affairs, political views, and even recreation—according to the commandments of God. The word "Puritan" itself in the contemporary mind identifies those who followed a strict and closely regulated life. The ethic of self-mastery and spiritual discipline falls strangely on the ears of today's generation.
(3.) Enjoy Freedom Under the Law--Third, the Pilgrims have left the example of freedom under law. The Mayflower Compact forged before the Pilgrims left the ship was the wedge that opened the door to a government controlled by the people, a government that has endured in the United States for centuries. Most historians agree that the Mayflower Compact was the forerunner of the Constitution of the United States. This little band of people searched for an equitable manner of earning a living and for a way of survival. They tried living a communal lifestyle, but, according to Governor Bradford: "This communal system conceived by Plato was found to breed much confusion." When communal living failed, they assigned a parcel of land to every family; with individual enterprise, prosperity came to the colony. Many rebellious young people live, enjoying what they call "absolute freedom." They are free to take narcotics, free to experiment with sex, free to go unwashed, free to dress as they please and do what they like. The freedom exercised by the Pilgrims didn't degenerate into license. Theirs was a liberty under law. The lawbreakers, malcontents, dissidents and criminals of our day would have been rejected by the Pilgrims. To them freedom under the law meant judgment for the lawless.
(4.) Care about Others--Fourth, the Pilgrims left an example of a people who had keen social concern. They believed that every person was made in the image of God, that each one was of infinite value and worth in the sight of God. They lived with Native Americans who had a different religion, a different skin color and a different culture. In March of 1621, Chief Samoset visited the Pilgrims' village and signed a peace treaty that lasted for many years. It was a treaty with high social and ethical content, showing a deep concern for the social, political and spiritual needs of neighbors. Though the Pilgrims knew that they were citizens of another world, they sought to improve the world they were passing through. The Pilgrims made their new world better, not by tearing down the old, but by constructive toil and fair dealings with their neighbors.
(5.) Share Your Faith--Fifth, the Pilgrims were evangelists who set an example in sharing their spiritual and material blessings with others. In the Mayflower Compact the Pilgrims committed themselves to the "advancement of the Christian faith." The Pilgrims at Plymouth were followed by the Puritans at Massachusetts Bay. Together they built churches and schools. In 1636 Harvard College was founded to train men for the ministry. By 1663 the first Bible was printed (the Algonquin Bible) for the Native Americans in their own tongue. These settlers came to the new world not only to find freedom for themselves but also to tell others of their faith.
(6.) Dream Great Dreams--For "where there is no vision, the people perish," says the Bible. The Pilgrims dreamed great dreams. They dreamed of a haven for themselves and for their children. They dreamed of religious freedom. They dreamed of a world where God would rule the hearts of men. They lived and died with these hopes. The Pilgrims' strength of spirit was forged by a personal faith in Christ, by tough discipline and by regular habits of devotion. Today it seems that many people have neither vision nor hope. But if you chose, you too could become like the Pilgrims. You could regain hope. You could recover the spiritual and the moral strength that you may have lost. But you would have to be willing to take up the same cross of Christ that they bore. You would have to put our faith in the same Christ that they did. Youwould have to make the same kind of lifetime commitments that they made. You would have to discipline ourselves as they did. And, like the Pilgrims, you need to dream great dreams, embrace great principles, renew your hope, and above all, believe in the Christ who alone can give total meaning and an ultimate goal to your life: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being."
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect, to love, to share, to hope, to believe, and to give thanks. You likely have received many blessings in your life over time. And, even when enduring difficult days, you can have the hope that life can be better, and eternity is only awaiting for your best. Celebrating the Season of Harvest is a time to spend with family and friends, and Thanksgiving is a great time of year to show your love and thanks to all those who have been close to you. Remember that the gift of life is your first reason to be thankful, and that all the material reasons you have been given follow far after that. To be thankful can be summed up in a single phrase: "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Happy Thanksgiving! Until next time.