The United States of America has a long history of thanksgiving, and not just on the fourth Thursday of November. Independent of any official designation of Thanksgiving Day, individuals, families and communities in this free country have always expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the Lord for his unending blessings. But it’s nice that we celebrate a national day for that explicit purpose.
It is especially appropriate during challenging times. Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, designated the annual holiday as we know it today and called for it to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. The following is an excerpt from his October 3, 1863 address. You can read the entire address here.
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 unequalled magnitude and severity, …the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; …They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy…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, tranquility and Union.
Today, we are living through a civil war of a different sort. The people of the United States are divided, not geographically on opposing sides of the Mason-Dixon line, but culturally, economically, politically and spiritually. The battlefields are not Pennsylvania farmlands but newsrooms, social media, radio waves and opinion polls.
What will it take to face our current challenges and to restore “peace, harmony, tranquility and Union”?
President Obama, in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation last year, urged us to remember the contributions of Native Americans, the strength of preceding generations, our military troops, and kindness and compassion toward each other – all good. But ultimately, Thanksgiving Day is a recognition that it is God to whom we are thankful for…everything. Last year’s proclamation concluded with the following paragraph.
As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables, in the simple gifts that mark our days, in the loved ones who enrich our lives, and in the gifts of a gracious God. Let us recall that our forebears met their challenges with hope and an unfailing spirit, and let us resolve to do the same.
Can we find unity as we lift our eyes to “the gifts of a gracious God” and learn from the “unfailing spirit” or our forebears? It seems to be a good place to start.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Yes. You’re right. We choose that part…the humbling and going with God no matter where He goes. Let’s make 2012 a year of humbling, praying, seeking, turning, and following. What do you think? Not that we blow off the rest of 2011. What’s left of this year can be our “running start.” 🙂
I noticed the same thing, Sue. (I’m impressed with your clear thinking at 4:19 a.m.!) I see no evidence that human good will or inspiration from history will heal our land. It’s a nice thought, but ultimately powerless. What always challenges me about the 2 Chronicles verse is that God is calling HIS people to humble themselves and pray. Sometimes Christians (including me) think that everyone ELSE should turn to God, which of course would be wonderful, but that’s not what this verse says is necessary for healing. Do we, as Christians, have it within our power as WE humble ourselves and pray, to influence the healing of our land? What if all Christians took that seriously?
I was thinking about the MY PEOPLE aspect of the Chronicles verse too. But I could only write so much during my hormonal rising at 4am. 🙂 It’s great that we Christians have our toes over the salvation line, but how few of us really humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways? It seems like a game plan for every day in every circumstance. Every setting invites our default position of the “wicked way,” which seems to be combattable only with humility, conversation with God, and turning toward Him to walk in His ways. I’m not sure that it is within “our” power as we humble ourselves, to influence the healing of our land, but it is surely possible through His power that dwells in us. Maybe splitting hairs….
I guess it is in our power to decide to humble ourselves and pray, and the rest is, of course, up to Him. I don’t think we even come close to taking God up on the opportunities he gives us to participate with him in his redemptive activity in the world.
Two phrases stick out as I read this blog: “….as may be consistent with the Divine Purposes,” from Lincoln’s address and “humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,” from Chronicles. What seems present in them, but absent in the “present day” excerpt is the “bowing of the knee,” the yielding of our will and our ways to God. One sentiment gives God an “honorable mention” for gifts given and urges us to imitate men before us. The other two ultimately urge subordination to the will of our Creator. We can smile, play nice, be grateful and acknowledge the determination of our forefathers as we gather around thanksgiving tables, and I wholeheartedly endorse that. But I long to see us not merely thank God for gifts given and try hard to forbear in our own strength. What would happen if we acknowledged that every breath comes from His gracious hand and turned ourselves over to the One who can place in us, the only true “unfailing Spirit” and unifying presence, His Holy Spirit? Perhaps healed hearts and a healed land. May it be so.