Thanksgiving has its roots in the celebration of the Pilgrims in 1621 for the bountiful harvest from the Hand of God. In 1789, following a proclamation issued by President George Washington, America celebrated its first day of Thanksgiving to God under its new constitution. But it wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as the official day for a day of Thanksgiving.
Let me quote from portions of Lincoln’s proclamation:
“The year that is drawing toward 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.”
“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 (sic), and union.”
Lincoln penned these words only months after 60,000 men had been killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. Our country was in a great conflict for its very existence. Brother was fighting against brother. The United States was no longer united; a great divide existed that was ripping it apart. The future was by no means clear, and the survival of the nation unsure.
So what did President Lincoln do? He called on the people to come before Almighty God of Heaven and pray. President Lincoln urged Americans to pray with gladness a prayer of thanksgiving for His goodness and grace. But read the last sentence in the above printed portion of Lincoln’s proclamation. He calls upon Americans to implore the Almighty Hand to heal and restore our nation.
I have no idea what President Obama will do in regard to Thanksgiving in 2012. I do know that we live in a deeply divided nation where there are deep wounds. Perhaps it is time someone calls Americans to cry out to Almighty God for His healing and restoration. Perhaps it is time for us to reflect on the bountiful goodness of God to this nation.
The God to Whom our forefathers turned, trusted and called upon is God by whatever name you give Him. These men called upon the God of Heaven who loves us and gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. He is the only true God and worthy of praise and thanksgiving. The redactors of history may eliminate Him from the history books in the classrooms of our children, but they cannot eliminate Him from history. He is the Sovereign over history.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.