Thanksgiving is a holiday with an interesting history. We usually think of the Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down at a table together to celebrate weathering a season of hardship. But Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until more than 200 years later. On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln wrote the following:
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, tranquility, and union.
What is most interesting about this is the timing. In July 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg was fought. It was a devastating battle where many men were killed or seriously injured. Over the years, many schoolchildren have been given the task of memorizing President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This incredible speech was delivered at the dedication of the national cemetery on the battlefield on November 19, 1863, a few days before the first celebration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. The proximity of these dates and their impact are profound – Giving thanks in the shadow of a horrible battle and the dedication of the cemetery connected to it.
I have long admired President Lincoln. He demonstrated a deep faith in God as he led our country through one of our darkest periods. His model is a testimony to truth that a spirit of thanksgiving is not tied to circumstances. A thankful spirit is a fruit of faith.
Our prayer for you and for ourselves is that we might receive the blessing of a thankful spirit no matter what circumstances we are facing. We are given this gift as we remember that our heavenly Father deeply loves us and wants good things for us. He is actively involved in transforming what can be crippling circumstances into reasons for rejoicing. That’s what we’re looking for in our house this Thanksgiving, and it is what we are praying for yours.
Lord God, You are the One who blesses us with all good things, and You are the One who transforms all the circumstances of our lives. Bless us now with hearts that trust You – especially when we are in dark places. Send us Your Holy Spirit that we might see with the eyes of faith and not with the eyes of the world. Your love for us is more than we can take in, but help us to take in that which draws us close to You and helps us to love each other. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
God bless you with a blessed celebration.
Serving the Lord and His Church,
Rev. Dr. Paul Linnemann
Northwest District President