|Providence, Rhode Island, (Photo: Pixabay)|
Today, though thankfulness is not always the emphasis during these particular celebrations, the original date marked a time to remember the providence of God, particularly among those looking for freedom to practice their beliefs without persecution.
Providence. I like that word. Of all things, the City of Providence, Rhode Island, came to my mind. Wikipedia says this about that city: "The area which is now Providence was first settled in June 1636 by prominent Baptist Roger Williams and other religious exiles. It was one of the original Thirteen Colonies of the United States. Williams had been exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his outspoken beliefs concerning distinction of state government and religion. Williams secured a title from the Narragansett natives around this time and gave the city its present name. Williams also cultivated Providence Plantations as a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters..."
Without doubt the religious exiles of that era were grateful to God for a place where they could live and worship in peace, hence the name of their settlement, "Providence."
Paul writes to the Ephesian church to remind them to be thankful, to be grateful to God for His providence. They were to remember where they once had been—exiles from the grace of God—and then, in remembering, they would have reason to be thankful.
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth...were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Remember where you once were. Remember the providence of God in taking you from there and bringing you, through Christ, to a better place, into the the family of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. You are now free. You now are at peace with God.
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility...His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near...Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone...in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit" (2:14-22).
Notice how many times the word "peace" is mentioned. My guess is that many of the early settlers in the new world,felt the impact of that word many times as they established themselves in a place where they could worship freely. For those of us who have deposited our lives and our souls into the keeping of Christ as our Redeemer, we remember where we once were before we knew Him. And then, with grateful hearts, we remember where we are now because of His providence.
And we are thankful.