A Thanksgiving Message

Grace and peace to you all on this Thanksgiving Day! 

Did you know that Thanksgiving wasn't declared a national holiday until 1863, during the height of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that it be celebrated on the final Thursday of November? 

This would be changed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 when he moved the holiday up a week during the Great Depression in order to boost retail sales.  Eventually, after a lot of pressure, he moved it to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941. 

Funny--back then people were actually outraged that the holiday would be used as a precursor to shopping.  Alas. 

As I was reading through Lincoln's original proclamation for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I found the following plea that he made to all Americans (Northerners and Southerners alike), imploring them to ask God: 

 “...commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

There's a message in Lincoln's words for us almost 160 years after he wrote them. 

Our nation is divided, and some might say we are at war with ourselves.  A global pandemic has left far too many "widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers." The wounds of our country need to be healed. 

And yet, despite everything, the spirit of Lincoln's proclamation was that every American take the time to gather with friends and family, find space for peace, and return thanks to God for all of the good in their lives.  

Now more than ever we need to embrace the spirit with which today's holiday was created.  Lincoln meant it as a day for healing and restoration, a re-centering on God as the giver of every good gift. 

I also understand that there are many of our First Nation/Native American siblings who are grieved with the actual history connected to Thanksgiving, and I acknowledge that, too.  

This is why I think we should reframe this day a bit.  Let it be a day when we make a deal with our relatives not to argue about politics or the pandemic.  Take the time instead to share all of the things that we are grateful for together.  

Let it be a day when we also are mindful that in our plenty we often can overlook those who are in want, and we need to have the mind of Christ toward all people, regardless of who they are. 

Let it be a day when we find ways to laugh, love, and live with friends and family, making up for all the time we've spent alone or apart.  

Let it be a day when we are filled with gratitude for the presence of God in our lives no matter what might be going on in the world around us.  May we discover new paths to healing and wholeness and even (dare I say it) unity with one another. 

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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