Tuesday, November 25, 2008


In 1620 when the Pilgrims first arrived in the New World, most didn't make it too far beyond their first season. With not much food and nothing in the way of adequate shelter, half their numbers never survived that first winter. Thanks to the Native Americans who welcomed them and taught them how to survive, the following year was very different. Their harvest was successful enough that Governor William Bradford declared a time of thanksgiving to God for a good crop and survival. This thanksgiving celebration lasted for three days.

What most people don't remember too well is that thanksgiving was not celebrated every year thereafter. If there was a good harvest brought in such as in 1623 (which by some is referred to as the official First Thanksgiving), then there was a celebration or two to accompany it. If not, there was no harvest celebration. Many days of thanksgiving were celebrated between 1621 and 1863, but it wasn't until 1863 that it became a yearly nationwide tradition proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln. If the here and now happened to be prior to the year of 1863, I would guess that this would be a year in which thanksgiving would not be celebrated based on the reapings of our nationwide harvest. Too many people unemployed, underemployed or simply living beyond their meager means would make this year a non-harvest celebration year for many of us. Personally, this year has been very hard on us - we've spent the last five years sowing a huge crop which has yielded very little for us to reap. As we sacrifice even more in order to survive the tough winter ahead, I am reminded of God's promises.

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:25

The Book of Joel sums up a year in the life of the nation. The people of Israel had been plagued by a swarm of locusts that had devoured the land. The crops were destroyed to the point that even the bark of the trees was stripped. There was nothing left. All of the energy and effort of the previous year had been eaten up in a matter of weeks. So too, maybe as you look back at the past year of your own life, you feel like locusts have descended upon it. Maybe you put a lot of energy into a relationship only to have nothing to show for it now. Maybe you gave a lot of yourself to your job but were passed by for a promotion. Maybe the creeping, gnawing, crawling, stripping locusts have left virtually nothing behind of that which you so lovingly planted, to which you so energetically gave yourself.

But, as he said to his people in Joel's day, God says to you this day, "I will restore the years the locust has eaten. I'll not only give you a fresh start, but will restore to you the years that were lost, the energy that was wasted."*

Even in this year of poor harvest for many, we are thankful. I am thankful for family (blood and through Christ) who make life worth living and are what it's all about. I am thankful for each one I call friend. I am thankful for the community surrounding me and my family. I am thankful for the abundance of God's provision despite the poor health of our money tree out back. I am thankful for faith, hope and love which bolster our spirits and care for our souls. Big harvest or small, I consider myself very rich indeed.

Thanks be to God!

*Thanks to Erin for forwarding me this from Jon Courson's Application Commentary by Jon Courson.
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