15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
Did you know that being thankful can make you happier? Dr. Sonja Lyumbomisrky, in her book The How of Happiness, lists a dozen scientifically proven ways to make yourself happier – number one on her list: expressing gratitude. Researchers asked a group of people to make a list once a week for ten weeks. They were to list five things they were thankful for. Other groups were asked to list five hassles or five major events. At the end of the ten week period, the thankful group was markedly more happy, joyful, and energetic. They even reported better physical health than the other groups.
Maybe that’s why I love Thanksgiving so much. Established 377 years ago by Plymouth colonists in Massachusetts, the holiday has an interesting history. The settlers had an incredibly difficult first year in North America. Their first winter in Massachusetts was dreadful – cold and disease killed half of the members of the colony. The settlers were in great despair by the end of the winter.
Although the following summer crop of corn was bountiful, the colonists had little hope in the face of the approaching winter. As winter neared and despondency grew, they held a public assembly to determine their course of action. It was proposed that the Plymouth colony proclaim a fast.
Almost the entire assembly agreed: the Plymouth colony would fast to seek God’s mercy for the future. But the story is told that one person, an old farmer, stood to oppose the idea.
The old man cautioned the people that they might, as he said, “provoke heaven with their complaints” against God. Instead, he began in the midst of the assembly, to review all that God had done for them: safe passage over dangerous seas, a favorable place to build a settlement, friendly relations with local Indians, plenty of fish, game and land for crops, an excellent harvest that summer, and the fact that God had spared all of their lives. He moved that instead of appointing a day of fasting, the colony instead appoint a day of thanksgiving. His convincing argument won the day: the old farmer changed their perspective.
You know the rest of the story. A great celebration ensued not absent was prayer to God for the upcoming winter but it was not a sorrowful fast. Thanksgiving became a yearly tradition and, 150 years later, President George Washington made it an official American holiday.
We still celebrate Thanksgiving as a time of patriotism, fun, family, football, and food. It’s a time for us to stop what we’re doing and think about the blessings God has given each of us. On this day and year round our lives marked by our thankfulness.
As it turns out, it’s good for us! Happy Thanksgiving.