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Oct5ThuRemembering the first Thanksgiving in North America. October 5, 2017 by Commissioner Susan McMillan
As I started making plans for Thanksgiving this year, a thought entered my head: Whose idea was it, anyway? When and why did we start having Thanksgiving here in Canada?
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
In our house, we always celebrated Thanksgiving twice—in October and November. (If we didn’t celebrate American Thanksgiving, my mom— thinking of her family in the United States—felt like something was missing.) Americans always ask why Thanksgiving is so early in Canada, and I usually say something about our harvest being earlier and winter coming in November. This year, I decided to actually do some research!
It turns out that the first European Thanksgiving in North America was held on Baffin Island in Labrador. Martin Frobisher, an English explorer, set sail from Plymouth and arrived in 1578, after a perilous journey. He and his crew celebrated a Thanksgiving service led by his ship’s chaplain, 42 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.
Of course, it didn’t become an official holiday in Canada until 1957, when the second Monday of October was established as Thanksgiving Day. By then it had come to be associated with harvest and gratitude for many things: family, friends, food and shelter.
As a Christian celebrating Thanksgiving, though, I acknowledge that everything I have and enjoy comes from God. Apart from him, I am nothing and have nothing. I owe it all to him. Therefore, on this day each year, I thank him—the one who gave me life in all its fullness.
Allow me to emphasize some key words in the following verses. Paul told the Ephesian church to “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
Similar advice was given to the Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15-16). He also taught them to “Devote [themselves] to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).
To the Philippian church, Paul gave instructions not to “ … be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
So, even before we receive God’s responses to our prayers, we should thank him. Even though we don’t know the outcome, we can be grateful, because we know that God is always in control and he wants nothing but the best for us, his children. It may not always appear that way. We may pray with all our hearts for something, but God says no. We may hope for a future that is different from our present, and perhaps God will change our circumstances. But sometimes, what he really wants to change is us, so we can better face those circumstances. When he strips away all that is unholy and unhelpful, we know that we are ready to inherit his kingdom—and that is worth everything.
The letter to the Hebrews suggests that one day God is going to shake us up; all that is temporal will fall away, and what is eternal will remain. Those who believe in his name and have trusted in his saving grace, he will admit into his heavenly kingdom for all eternity. Now that’s something for which to be thankful! “Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!” (Hebrews 12:28-29 The Message)
This Thanksgiving I want to express to God my deepest gratitude for saving me and making me his own.
Commissioner Susan McMillan is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Follow her at facebook.com/susanmcmillantc and twitter.com/salvationarmytc.