Our annual celebration of Thanksgiving Day traces back to Abraham Lincoln who, in 1863, called for a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November
It feels like Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming a forgotten holiday, like Columbus Day, but with football and food. For many, it's just a rest stop between Halloween and Christmas.
If the results of a popular Internet search engine are any indication, Black Friday - that auspicious shopping day which officially inaugurates the Christmas shopping season - is twice as popular as Thanksgiving Day. While I am not advocating celebrating gluttony, reinvigorating Thanksgiving Day as a holiday serves an important role in actually becoming 'one nation under God.'
Our annual celebration of Thanksgiving Day traces back to Abraham Lincoln who, in 1863, called for a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. At the height of the Civil War, Lincoln called Americans to remember that 'the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies . . . are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.'
Although the country was mired in deep conflict, Lincoln recognized both God's provision and mercy, exhorting Americans to give thanks to God and to intercede on behalf of their country and its citizens who were suffering.
Today, our country finds itself again struggling with deep conflict. The various 'Occupy' demonstrations across the nation reveal deep strife between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots.' These divisions will not be healed lightly, nor will a single holiday bring adversaries to the same table. However, Lincoln's words in the midst of a devastating war echo the call of God's Word and shine a light in the darkness today.
Psalm 107:1 says, 'Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.' Thanksgiving Day becomes a meaningful holiday when it is the overflow of a thankful life. How much division between the 99 percent and the 1 percent would be eliminated by an attitude of thanksgiving? Truly giving thanks has a way of arresting greed. It is an action acknowledging that you have received something from someone else as a gift, and it instills a sense of responsibility to the giver.
Thanksgiving is a lesson everyone needs to learn. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the Apostle Paul wrote, 'I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.' Here Paul urges the common people to be thankful to God for those in power. The Roman government wasn't known for its benevolent policies, much less for its acknowledgment of the One True God, yet Paul links a grateful disposition toward the government with holiness.
Wherever you stand or whatever you have, thanksgiving is an attitude before it's a holiday. Maybe that's why this holiday has lost its moorings, and maybe a renewal of an attitude of thanksgiving is necessary for righting the ship.
As you prepare for Thanksgiving Day, I encourage you to prepare to give thanks - not simply to your mom, that special someone or the troops - but to the God who is rich in mercy and has given you more than you could ever repay in sending his Son to earth as the ultimate gift; and may your Thanksgiving celebration reflect a life of thanksgiving.