Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We often remember the pilgrims and Native Americans at Thanksgiving, and rightfully so. The year 1621 was the beginning of giving thanks for bountiful harvest and fellowship with Native Americans in the New World. It was a beautiful thing we should continue to celebrate.
But Thanksgiving as we know it was established as a national holiday by proclamation in 1863. So for just a few minutes, let’s forget the pilgrims and review the proclamation that established the holiday we celebrate today. I think it is especially appropriate as we watch events unfold in Ferguson, MO.
Keep in mind, this was issued by Abraham Lincoln in the height of the Civil War.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
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 unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, 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, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Hearts in 1863, like hearts in 2014, were broken over strife between brothers and sisters, issues of race, states rights, and defining governmental control.
But those hearts in 1863 belonged to people – real, flesh-and-blood people. People who made good choices, showed compassion, and loved others well. And those same people who made poor choices, acted selfishly, and expressed hatred for others. There were bloody battles and heroic sacrifices.
They were people just like me.
They were people like you.
And in the middle of all this, without minimizing the agony of the age, Abraham Lincoln declared a day to remember the “gracious gifts of the Most High God” who “remembered mercy.”
Lincoln issued a call to give “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Lincoln also called us to mingle our thanksgiving with “penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience” and with a desire for “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, and tranquility and Union.”
I think recent events continue to reveal that Providence has not yet fully healed the wounds of our nation.
May our Thanksgiving in 2014 be one of prayer and gratitude for His many blessings, repentance for our part in perpetuating the sins of our fathers (actively or by negligence), and pleas for His healing of our nation through the healing of hearts for His kingdom.
It is only through Christ the lion will lay with the lamb.
It is only through Christ that people – be they black or white – will value human life and the special dignity given by being made in God’s image enough to seek the good of others over self.
It is only as we lay down our desire to make a name for ourselves and seek God’s glory that Babel will be undone, and the peoples will be drawn together.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Christ came so we could push back the dominion of darkness, not so we could hide in the shadow of darkness in the name of social justice.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12