Daily Devotion - Wednesday, November 25, 2015
For the remainder of this week we'll be reflecting on Gratitude--because it's Thanksgiving Week, brothers and sisters!
Tomorrow many of us will gather around tables with friends and loved ones, and we'll celebrate Thanksgiving. We'll share a meal (or three), the many blessings we've been given and perhaps some laughter, too. More than a few of us will fall asleep on the couch afterward with football on the television, and the sounds of our family in the background.
While most Americans will enjoy Thanksgiving to the fullest, there are few of us who know the history of this great holiday. It was, in fact, Abraham Lincoln who set aside the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. For the next 75 years each President would do the same--annually declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1941, Congress finally acted to make Thanksgiving a permanent national holiday.
So why did Lincoln think it was so important to celebrate a day of thanksgiving? America was in the midst of the Civil War at the time, and the news at that point wasn't great. Every single day there were more reports of lives lost in that terrible conflict. The economy suffered. Things were not good.
Yet, Lincoln felt the need for a day of thanksgiving and praise "to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens." In his proclamation, Lincoln exhorted his fellow Americans to offer God praise that he said was "justly due to Him," but also to spend time on the day of thanksgiving in "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience."
Then Lincoln wrote this:
[We should] 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, tranquility, and union.So the original idea was for people to enjoy a day of thanksgiving, shared meals and celebration for all that God had done to bless them. And also to take the time to pray and to repent, and to remember those who were sorrowful, lonely, lost and broken. Finally, Lincoln wanted Americans to pray for the war to end and for America to once again be "one nation, under God."
I think Lincoln was on to something. Let's celebrate tomorrow. Let's eat good food, and enjoy our friends and family. Let's laugh, and be filled with joy at the evidence of obvious blessings in our lives. But let's also remember those who don't feel the same joy, who are hungry, who are lost and in need of a Jesus-centered community.
And let us pray for our divided nation. Let's us pray that the strife in our warring culture would cease and that we would put aside our petty differences for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Let us repent of our own part in this strife and commit to doing everything within our power to be peacemakers from this day forward.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always and may the power of the Holy Spirit of God be upon you, now and forever. Amen.