November 22, 2002
Those familiar with America's Christian heritage and the history of Thanksgiving Day have no problem being thankful for the "gracious gifts of the most high God" mentioned in Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1863.
But today, many make vague references to being "thankful" without mentioning the object of their thankfulness. Certainly, in the mainstream media Lincoln's "most high God" gets little or no mention.
Secularists and anti-Christian forces have left little room for Christ in the orgy of commercialism the world calls Christmas -- but which Christians celebrate as the coming of the Christ Child, the Savior of the world.
The anti-Christ groups have worked hard to remove "Christ" from Christmas, from public life, and particularly from public property. In one school, even "Merry Christmas" was banned, because the school administrator said it had a "religious connotation." I'm not making this up.
In similar fashion, secularists have worked hard to remove God from our observance of Thanksgiving Day. Ask a random sample of people why we set aside a day for "Thanksgiving," and you might be surprised at far down the list God would be -- if He made the list at all.
So to Whom should we offer thanksgiving? For those who try to discredit our nation's Christian heritage, a historical overview might help.
The concept of thanksgiving has a solid Biblical basis. In Psalm 50:14 (NKV) we are commanded to "Offer to God thanksgiving," and in
Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks."
In America, the leader of a small French colony in Florida recorded on June 30, 1564: "We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God." The colonists at Jamestown, after a hard winter, set aside a time for thanksgiving in 1610.
But the first Thanksgiving proclamation in America was issued by the governing council of Charleston, Mass., on June 20, 1676. The council approved June 29 as a day of thanksgiving.
They left no doubt as to the Object of their Thanksgiving Proclamation, which began with, "Holy God," and ended with (in the original words), "being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all ... offer up our bodies and soulds as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ."
Today, those words would draw a lawsuit from at least the ACLU, and orthopedic doctors would reap a bonanza from injuries caused by the knee-jerk reactions of liberals everywhere.
In 1789, George Washington proclaimed a "National Day of Thanksgiving." Thomas Jefferson and others were against making it a national day. It isn't clear if their opposition was because of Washington's devout Christian faith, or merely because they didn't want a day off.
The No-God-allowed Crowd would be particularly unhappy with Abraham Lincoln, who established our modern tradition with his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863.
Lincoln's proclamation first mentions "the ever-watchful providence of almighty God." Then, referring to "Blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies," and the strength of the nation in spite of the Civil War, Lincoln wrote, "They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."
Lincoln's proclamation invited citizens, "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."
This Thanksgiving Day, we should be neither timid nor confused about the Object of our thanksgiving. Why should we not be openly happy at being free, and able to enjoy so many material blessings from a "beneficent Father?"
No nation can be more certain than the United States of Who should be the Object of our thanksgiving. For God has given us a nation "with liberty and justice for all," and immeasurable and unmerited mercy from the birth our nation to the present. And God has surely shed His grace on America -- however unthankful it may be.
America has been endowed abundantly with justice, mercy and grace. For justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is not getting what we deserve; grace is getting what we don't deserve.
That's America throughout its history. In America, every day is a day for thanksgiving.