Thursday, November 20, 2008

In early fall of 1621, 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest. A traditional English custom, the celebration was a time to thank God, who had made possible their survival and provided the bounty of their harvest. It was not just a secular occasion; it was a religious observance.

Americans have officially celebrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday since 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving Proclamation. This day is not just a day to give thanks (we should be doing that every day!), but it’s a day when we give corporate thanks - thanks as a nation, as a community, as a family. I recently reviewed Lincoln’s Proclamation and was struck by the boldness with which Lincoln urged the country to show thanks to God. In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln still expressed gratitude for the many ways God had blessed the nation. In his concluding statement Lincoln implores God to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it according to God’s purpose so that America would find “peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

Isn’t that sentiment appropriate for us today? Our nation has just concluded a harsh presidential campaign. Many families are feeling the effects of the struggling economy. Nevertheless, God has blessed our nation and us as individuals in many ways. He has promised us that he will provide. His name Jehovah-Jireh means just that - The Lord will provide.

Let’s take some time this Thanksgiving season to count our blessings and name them one by one.
Let’s use Lincoln’s words as inspiration to pray for God to heal our wounds and restore us to his purpose so that we all can find “peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

The Message version of Psalm 100 calls us to be active in our expressions of thanks to God. You might want to read this at your Thanksgiving table as you and your guests share expressions of gratitude.

Psalm 100 - A Thanksgiving Psalm

On your feet now - applaud God!

Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.

Know this: God is God, and God, God.

He made us; we didn't make him.

We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

Enter with the password: "Thank you!"

Make yourselves at home, talking praise.

Thank him. Worship him.

For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love,

Loyal always and ever.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation is found below:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State


Julie Coleman said...

How interesting that Lincoln thought a key to reconcilliation and Union was thanksgiving. That thought echoes what Paul wrote in Ephesians, as he urged them to work toward unity. He told them to be filled with the Spirit, demonstrating their yieldedness by: speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritula songs . . . always giving thanks in all things. An attitude of gratitude is key to unity-- at least according to Paul and Lincoln! Thanks for a great, interesting and informative post!

Cathy said...

I love the connection between Paul and Lincoln. Thanks, Julie!

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