"Land ho!" the cabin boy yelled as he leaned over the side of the Mayflower's crow's nest. The year was 1620, and the place was America! America! After traveling in the stuffy hull of the small cargo ship for over two months, the colonists on board were more than happy to see land, even though it would not be until the next year that they were able to set up permanent residence. After years of preparation in England and than in Holland, the Pilgrims were finally able to worship God as they pleased. William Bradford writes in his diary, "On Munday they sounded ye harbor, and founde it fitt for shipping; and marched into ye land [Plymouth], & found diverse cornfeilds, & litle runing brooks, a place (as they supposed) fitt for situation; at least it was ye best they could find, and ye season, & their presente necessitie, made them glad to accepte of it. So they returned to their shipp againe with this news to ye rest of their people, which did much comforte their harts."
The early colonists were soon buffeted by many difficulties, ones that almost succeeded in wiping them out. Trusting God to see them through and placing their lives completely in His control, they continued to eke out a living among the obstacles of a new world. As the end of that first growing season approached, they realized that it was only through God's grace they were able to continue through another long, hard winter. With a bountiful harvest at hand, they decided to hold a thanksgiving feast to celebrate the Lord's providence thus far, and to give thanks for the bountiful provision He had given them for the next year.
And so it came about that the very first Thanksgiving was held on the lonely shores of the New World. Nobody knew the future - it seemed bleak indeed at the time! - but they all trusted the God who had led them in the past to sustain them in the future. And now, each one of us can be thankful for the wonderful freedoms America offers us today. As the early colonists continued to shape the America as we know it today, each one gave indelible honor to the One who lead in all their affairs. As Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, stated in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." As another Thanksgiving season is left behind us, let us each remember to thank our Creator who has endowed so many blessings upon His children!