“In November, people are good to each other. They carry pies to each other’s homes and talk by crackling woodstoves, sipping mellow cider. They travel very far . . . to share a meal with one another and to give thanks for their many blessings – for the food on their tables and the babies in their arms.” Cynthia Rylant
This Thursday is Thanksgiving. The original Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 as the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. However, in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent writer and editor (and probably most recognized as the author of the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb” [originally known as “Mary’s Lamb], was the driving force behind the Thanksgiving proclamation. For 36 years Sarah Hale wrote to and lobbied politicians to declare a national day of thanksgiving. Because of her efforts she was given the nickname “Mother of Thanksgiving.”
In that 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation, President Lincoln entreated all Americans to ask God to “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.” With the exception of 1939 – 1941, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as the last Thursday of November.
Perhaps like many other holidays, much of the significance of a national day to give thanks to God has been lost to secular traditions and events. Most Americans will tune in to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, enjoy a meal of turkey or ham with their loved ones, and watch a football game or play board games with family members. Others may choose to volunteer to feed the homeless or underprivileged. Still others will pour over the sales brochures in the newspaper and plot their schedule for Black Friday shopping.
How will you spend Thanksgiving in 2019? Will you express gratitude to the Almighty for His bountiful blessings? Will you peruse the Bible and recall the admonitions of scripture to give thanks to God? Will each person around the table share one thing for which they are most thankful?
As a nation, we are one of the most blessed peoples on earth. The economy is strong, unemployment is low, our standard of living is high, we enjoy the best medical care in the world, and our children are safe and have access to education. We have our challenges too – such as the divisiveness and civil unrest we experience politically, family strife, and cultural mores that seek to undermine the longstanding Biblical virtues and values that have served to stabilize families and societal norms.
Yet even with the challenges we face, the will of God for Christians is that we give thanks to God, regardless of the circumstances we are in. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).
On this great American holiday, count your blessings. Phillips Brooks gives us a challenge as we approach Thanksgiving: “Stand up, on this Thanksgiving Day, stand upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and with clear eyes, believe in your own time and place. There is not, and there never has been a better time, or a better place to live in.
”The Mid-Atlantic Christian University family is thankful for you, your friendship, and your witness to the gospel of Christ. From the MACU family – Happy Thanksgiving.
Building bridges of thanksgiving,