I ran across a pamphlet entitled
“Celebrating Advent” in some old Christmas cards I have not been able to part with. Consequently, I have no idea how old it is; I do have a listing of resources where the information came from, which I will list at the bottom of this post. In examining the faded pamphlet, I was fascinated to learn much I did not know, beginning with the first Thanksgiving. In the next few posts I will be sharing the information with you verbatim from this booklet, hoping that you will be blessed, will learn something, and will find things you can share with others…as we prepare for this time of celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! He IS the “reason for the season.” Enjoy!
“It must have been the most horrifying experience of their lives. Though there were 105 people aboard the ship called The Mayflower, only 54 were from the band of Separatists who had lived in Holland the previous twelve years to escape persecution in England. They were farmers and sheepherders for the most part, though some might have been craftsmen of one trade of another. But never had they been on the high seas. And it must have seemed as though the very demons of hell had been loosed upon them during the fall of 1620.
The storms of the North Atlantic were so fierce and the ship was so tossed the main mast frequently dipped in to the waves. It was a disorienting, gut-wrenching experience for even the experienced sailors among them. The small band of believers on board—men, women, expectant mothers and small children among them—were kept in the “tween deck” for fear of the buffeting storms. What a filthy, smelly time of testing that was! The sea water itself was so cold that a man washed overboard would die within three minutes. Bone chilling “gushes” sometimes washed fish into the ship large enough to be eaten. As if all this wasn’t enough, the main beam had cracked and the decision had been made to press it back into place with a printing press which had been brought along for printing Bibles in the New World. What a fear-inspiring sight this was!
But the elements were not the only opposition these Christians, who soon would be called “Pilgrims,” endured. There was one sailor who persisted in calling them “psalm-singing pukestockings,” which are exactly the two things they spent most of their time doing. Though the Pilgrims forgave and prayed for the man’s soul, he was, mysteriously, the only person to die during the voyage.
For 66 days, the little ship, no larger in size than a modern volleyball court, made the treacherous voyage from England to the coast of Massachusetts. And when they arrived, what must their thought have been as they scanned the howling wilderness which was to be their home. William Bradford, their governor, later remembered:
before in their preparation they had now no friends to
welcome them, nor inns to entertain or refresh their
weather-beaten bodies, no house or much less towns
to repair too, to seek for succour.
What could sustain them but the spirit of God and his
grace. May not and ought no the children of these
fathers, right say: “Our fathers were Englishmen
which came over this great ocean, and were ready to
perish in this wilderness.”
In spring they planted and began to sense that God had heard their prayers. The previous winter had been the worst of times, but the harvest looked bountiful now, the settlement was growing and God seemed to be smiling upon them.
So when the harvest was gathered, Governor Bradford called for some of the men to go hunting in preparation for a great feast to celebrate the goodness of God. Wild fowl and deer were prepared in abundance. The newly invited Indians brought five additional deer. Women prepared hoecakes, cornmeal pudding and a variety of vegetables, while the Indian women introduced delicacies, like blueberry, apple, and cherry pie. The most welcomed new food which the Indians brought with them, though, was a new way of cooking corn in an earthen pot until it became white and fluffy—popcorn!
It was indeed a thanksgiving. But not just for safety and an abundance of food. It was also a time to remember the words they had penned about their purpose for coming when they were yet on the Mayflower. They came, they said, “for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith,” for propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be put even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”
So they were. And we ought to remember them this Thanksgiving, and take their mission to our hearts.
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel (Fleming H. Revell Company) Note: a children’s
version is also available.
Why Not Celebrate! By Sara Wenger Shenk (Good Books)
To Dance with God by Gertrud Mueller Nelson (Paulist Press)
Unplug the Christmas Machine By Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Stacheli (Quill)
Jesus, Be In My Christmas by Hornsby (Chosen Books)
The 25 Days of Christmas: An Advent Celebration for the Entire Family by Rebecca Hayford Bauer (Victor Books)
Christ in Christmas, a Family Advent Celebration by Dobson, Swindoll, Boice, and Sproul (Navpress)
Parables for Christmas by John Killinger (Abingdon Press)