For many people, Thanksgiving Day is a day of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and all the other delicious servings that day, followed by a football game or two.
However, Thanksgiving Day was not always celebrated that way.
From the early Seventeenth Century, members of the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts and the Jamestown colony in Virginia celebrated Thanksgiving Day by worshipping and thanking God for preserving them under terrible circumstances where many members of their colony had died.
But God preserved them and gave them an abundant harvest so that they did not starve to death but persevered under hardship and survived in a wild new country.
They were thanking God for more than the harvest he had given them; they were thanking him for the promise of eternal life with him in his kingdom.
Some reading this article may not celebrate Thanksgiving Day with an abundance of food or other material blessings. But God does give an abundance of blessings in Jesus Christ.
All of us are sinners. Rich or poor, regardless of race, political creeds or earthly possessions, we all fall short of God’s command that we must be perfect if we are to enter into his eternal kingdom.
There is not one who can earn his or her way into God’s kingdom by our good works or earthly efforts. But Jesus Christ has earned for us that entrance into God’s eternal home.
Jesus Christ paid the penalty we all deserve. When God says the wages of sin is death, he was not joking.
And we all deserve this penalty for our sin: death, an eternal separation from God. But Jesus Christ loved us so much he was willing to pay that penalty for us. He died, taking all our sin upon his body and died for us, that we might receive God’s forgiveness for our sin.
The early Pilgrims and Jamestown colonists faced death every day. But they faced it with joy and confidence knowing that the greatest blessing was waiting for them in death.
So in this difficult world, they rejoiced and gave thanksgiving to God for preserving them for a time while in this world, and when that time came to an end, they had the promise of seeing God face to face.
May we also celebrate Thanksgiving Day with this same joy, enjoying whatever God gives us while we are in this world but more especially enjoying the promise of that wonderful world which is to come.
Rev. Richard H. Snyder is a retired pastor of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.