george_hancockstefanThe 17th century colonists brought with them from England the concept of thanksgiving. It is a harvest feast developed from the Holy Scriptures and implemented sporadically in England. The feast was celebrated in the time of plenty and time of want for the Bible tells us that in all things we should give thanks.

Primarily at the foundation of what we do every year in America are three events: 1) the recorded Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians two day celebration in 1621, 2) the First Thanksgiving Proclamation of Governor Bradford in 1723 and 3)the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in 1777 by the Continental Congress.

One historian wrote: History is something that continually breathes, otherwise becomes strictly dust. Thus, there are challenges to everything associated with these historical facts. There are historians who challenge the historicity of the meeting between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians, who are not sure that Bradford’s Declaration is authentic and who tell us that the implementation of the National Thanksgiving celebration as declared by the Continental Congress was sporadic until 1863 when we had two national days of Thanksgiving – one to celebrate the victory at Gettysburg in August 6 and another in November.  

The historical data brought to mind the celebration of Thanksgiving this year. While from an agricultural viewpoint it has been a mixed blessing with droughts in some counties and floods in others, the overall sufficiency of food was gathered in our harvests. We started to think about the celebration of Thanksgiving and then Hurricane Sandy came for a visit. Her visit brought unforeseen destruction from which we are still recovering.

Yet in the midst of the vast destruction and monumental life changes for thousands of families, there was a preparation of Thanksgiving. Even those whose homes have been destroyed came together with friends and families to give thanks for what they have – their lives, some of their belongings, friends and families and hope and resources to start building again.


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Paul knew something when he wrote to the Thessalonians 5:18: In everything give thanks, for this is the will for you in Christ Jesus. Personally I find that when I give thanks I recognize God as the Giver of all thanks. I also recognize that I together with all humans have the obligations to share so that others will be able to give thanks. The last idea is that I do not need all the things that I have and God is telling me to share with those who have less, to those who are in need, to those who should also experience the blessings that God has given to me. For together with the Pilgrims, I know that I am a steward of the riches of God entrusted to us while we journey on this earth.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...