In September of 1620, 102 pilgrims embarked from England aboard the Mayflower. Their intent was to establish a settlement in the Hudson River area of the recently established Virginia Colony. After a sixty-six-day journey they made landfall approximately 150 miles north of their target at the eastern tip of Cape Cod in present-day Massachusetts. They explored the area for about a month and then sailed further west to the mainland at present-day Plymouth. It was here that they decided to establish a new homeland. The pilgrims were puritans and were not in agreement with King James I and the Anglican Church of England. They were not free to worship God according to their puritan faith.1
William Bradford was a prominent member of the pilgrim expedition and was ultimately elected governor of the Plymouth Colony. He kept a record of the treacherous journey. Bradford wrote:
They committed themselves to the will of God, and resolved to proceed. In many of these storms the winds were so fierce, and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail…… a strapping young man called John Howland was, with a lurch of the ship thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the ropes which hung overboard. He held his hold (though he was many feet under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boathook and other means got into the ship again, and his life saved.1
Upon their landing at the Cape, Bradford wrote, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon 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.”1
The pilgrims spent the winter of 1620-1621 on the docked Mayflower. It is estimated that half of them died of malnutrition and disease by Spring. Those who survived left the ship to establish a settlement and plant crops. They were aided by two men from the local Native American tribes. Both men, Samoset and Squanto, spoke English which they had learned from previous English explorers.1
The Pilgrims' first harvest was successful, and in November of 1621 the group's leader, Governor William Bradford, called for a feast to celebrate.Hunters went into the wilderness to hunt game including fowl. Members of the local Native American tribes were invited and brought deer meat to add to the menu. The celebration lasted for three days and included feasting, games, and hunting skills contests. The Pilgrims thanked God for His provision of food but also for the new country where they could freely worship God. They thanked God for their new Native American friends. Most of all, they praised God and worshipped Him. The Pilgrims acknowledged God as the giver of all good things.2
Without God it is impossible to be truly thankful. Think about it. If we don't believe in God, we can't thank Him and He can't bless us. Without hearts open to God, we start to think we ourselves are god and become prideful, self sufficient, selfish and entitled. If we want our children, ourselves, and others to be humble and thankful, we must acknowledge God and praise Him for who He is and all He has provided.
God’s not dead. He is surely alive. Whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is real. He is, and always has been, and always will be. And He wants a relationship with you and me.
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
1“Aboard the Mayflower, 1620," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2004).
2“The First Thanksgiving, 1621," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2010).