The Privileged Life: Celebrate Thanksgiving Like a Pilgrim

I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:17)

I’m very thankful for the Pilgrims who came to America in 1620…I married one of their descendants.

My beloved, Mark, is a 12th-generation descendant of Samuel Fuller, who was only 12 years old when he sailed the Atlantic with his parents, Edward Fuller and his wife (name unknown). The threesome were among the intrepid souls from England—members of a Separatist Christian church—who boarded a tiny ship called the Mayflower for a dangerous voyage. Edward’s brother, also called Samuel, came along as the colonists’ doctor/surgeon. 

Imagine spending two months with 102 people in a dark space the size of a volleyball court. With no running water, bathrooms, or electricity. No hot or fresh food. Every moment rolling from side to side. 

That was just the beginning of their trials. Young Samuel’s parents died the first winter ashore, along with 43 others. Samuel survived, along with his Uncle Samuel.

Many of us Americans know the legendary story of that first year in New England—the harsh weather, lack of sufficient food, threats of warring native tribal groups, and disease. Then, the blessings of God—the unexpected help from Squanto, a compassionate native who befriended them…a substantive harvest to sustain them…and the peaceful relationship that developed with the Wampanoag tribe, led by Massasoit. 

In gratitude for God’s provisions, the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving four hundred years ago in October 1621. The feast was cooked by four women, with the help of their daughters and servants, and originally was planned only to feed the colonists…until 90 of the Wampanoag joined in for one big potluck dinner that lasted three days.

I wonder what young Samuel thought of this first “giving of thanks,” in light of losing his parents only a few months earlier. And I wonder what he would think of the way we Americans view Thanksgiving today. 

One huge shopping frenzy? A day to watch football? A time to argue politics with family members you see only once a year? Eating way too much turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, beans, corn pudding, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie? (Okay, all that last part is fine with me.) 

How many of us really stop everything this week to give thanks to God? For how He has blessed us another year? For how He has spared us despite the pandemic? For His provisions of shelter, food, and other material needs? For His greatest gift, salvation through Jesus Christ?

God has called us to give thanks in everything, even our losses. Young Samuel Fuller knew sorrow, abandonment, hardship. But as far as we know, he was present at the first Thanksgiving and participated in the worship as well as feasting. He would have understood his purpose in being there…when giving thanks was a true sacrifice for him.

For the Puritan Pilgrims, every activity in their mission to secure religious freedom was an act of worship—establishing a colony where they could practice their faith without fear of persecution from authorities. This freedom was a priceless treasure to them, and they held onto it with perseverance and trust in their living God. 

Their legacy of liberty and determination remains today, as millions of American families (and last month, Canadian families) celebrate their festive memory this week. And their legacy of devotion extends to our home through the faith in Jesus Christ that they handed down to us.

Will you join us in making this Thanksgiving an act of worship as well? Here are some ways you can celebrate this day like a Pilgrim:

*Bow your head in prayer before a good and mighty God…who has given you life now and the promise of life beyond this earth.

*Praise God for His provision of daily bread…and His bounteous blessings of shelter and clothing.

*Thank Him for health and survival…even while loved ones may have been lost.

*Break bread in harmony with others who are different, with potentially hostile people…forging an alliance instead of focusing on conflicts. 

*Join hands to serve others in unity of purpose…using leadership and cooperation to get something done.

*Show hospitality to unexpected guests, in generosity…sharing your blessings and acting graciously to receive gifts in turn.

*Live in freedom…as those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior…knowing the truth about Him, the Truth that sets them free to live an abundant life.

May our Lord bless you richly this week, wherever you live, wherever you celebrate as His child…in praise and thanksgiving.

Lord, God of the harvest, bless our nation with Your presence. Remind our people to pause in the busyness of this season to give thanks to You for Your many wonderful blessings, above and beyond what we could ever imagine. Thank You for family and friends. Thank You most of all for Your abundant life in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen. 

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© Copyright 2021 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

2 responses to “The Privileged Life: Celebrate Thanksgiving Like a Pilgrim”

    • I thought it was fascinating, too! I knew that Mark was a descendant but I learned more about the Fullers in writing this blog. Turns out Amelia Earhart and Georgia O’Keefe were also descendants, his very distant cousins!


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