by Julie Zine Coleman @juliezcoleman
Most Americans are well-versed in the events which led to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1620. But the suffering did not end there. Soon after the celebration, the Pilgrims found they had overestimated their harvest and would once again be forced to endure a long winter of meager rations. To further exacerbate the food shortage, a ship arrived in late November with thirty-five new settlers and absolutely no provisions. The little group barely survived the winter.
The growing season the following year did not go well. The lack of food left the settlers too weak to properly tend the fields, and the harvest was a dismal failure. With meager food stores and many mouths to feed, the rations during the following winter came down to a daily portion of five kernels of corn per person. This lasted three or four months until the next harvest finally supplied an ample amount of food.
Those two years of suffering were not far from the Pilgrims’ minds as they gathered with their Native American neighbors in the fall of 1623 for a second Thanksgiving celebration. The first course, served on an otherwise empty plate, was five kernels of corn. The celebration of a plentiful harvest was that much more meaningful when compared to past times of desperate want. The Pilgrims determined to remember.
I have a friend who places a dried kernel of corn on each dinner plate for her Thanksgiving guests. Before the meal begins, each person names one thing for which they are thankful then drops their kernel into a basket being passed around the table. It’s one way that family remembers.
We have been called to do the same. Remember. Paul wrote the Ephesians: “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world… But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12-13 NASB).
The Ephesian church was experiencing difficulty in melding two groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one unified church. Their heritage, culture, and backgrounds were so very diverse. To help them resolve their differences, Paul took them back to who they were before Jesus. They had shared a bleak future with no hope of ever being right with God. They needed to remind themselves where each of them would be if Jesus had not shed His blood on their behalf.
Remembering they all started in the same boat and that each one was saved by grace (not because of their race or accomplishments) would help them worship side by side as brothers and sisters. Paul concluded: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15 NASB).
Remembering is something God encourages all believers to do. It’s why we celebrate Communion on a regular basis. As we share the elements, we remember Christ’s sacrificial death and suffering, as well as His victory over sin and death. We also remember what we were before our salvation: spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), slaves of sin (Rom 6:17), enemies of God (Rom 5:10), without hope (Eph 2:12), and condemned to an eternity of suffering and spiritual death (Rom 5:18).
Remembering this swells our hearts with thanksgiving and praise. Thinking about our before is helpful in cultivating a grateful heart and a love for Christ in the here and now. Looking back on what we have been saved from helps us to more fully appreciate the lengths to which God went to bring us into a relationship with Him.
So this Thanksgiving, take some time to look back. And remember.
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to
understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Join the conversation: What remembrance gives you gratitude?