Thanksgiving seems to have become an undervalued holiday. Images of turkey, pumpkin pie, football games and tryptophan-induced naps have moved their way to the forefront of our celebration. Frequently called Turkey Day, it has now been linked with shopping frenzies tagged Black Friday and Cyber Monday ~ a far cry from the original intent. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the fact that Thanksgiving was intended to be a God-centered celebration. Perhaps it happened because we forgot to pass down the dual truths of God’s Word and unaltered history.
It was 1789 when George Washington made the first Thanksgiving proclamation. His words are so filled with depth and wisdom that I am taking the time to quote him.
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity.
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interposition of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just and constitutional laws, bless them with good governments, peace, and concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine. G. Washington”
Where did such wisdom and fortitude come from? It was formed out of the truth of Scripture and forged in the battle for true liberty. Regardless of our station in life, we are the recipients of an extraordinary gift because of God’s grace. Thanksgiving should be a priority in our attitude, our actions and our words. The individual practice and collective application of such an attitude has restorative power. In that truth, how could we do less than honor the Lord for His goodness and abundant blessings?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us such instruction. “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God is not telling us we are to be thankful “for” painful circumstances, He is telling us to give thanks “in” all circumstances because He is working all things together to accomplish the ultimate good we cannot yet see. He is allowing events of life to forge our souls with strength and purpose that will ultimately reveal blessings we could not have imagined. It is not dependent on feelings, or negated by trials, for the believer has the joy of belonging to Christ. We can come to Him at any hour of any day, with any circumstance and He hears the petitions of His people. Our thanksgiving is right and the only appropriate response to the One who died so that we may live.
Are you thankful? If you are, when was the last time you humbly bowed before the Lord and praised Him in the overflow of a grateful heart? When did you acknowledge that your very breath is from Him? When did you praise Him for the mercy He has bestowed, the abundance He has provided and the undeserved grace He has extended? Thanksgiving is so much more than carving turkeys and topping pumpkin pie with whipped cream. It is a heart attitude that recognizes the whole of life as gift from God. It is joyful acknowledgement and praise of the One from whom all blessings flow.
George Washington embraced that truth. May we reclaim it in our day with the words of 1 Chronicles 29:13 “Now therefore, our God, we thank thee and praise thy glorious name.”