The leaves have lost their color and fallen from the trees. The air has turn cool and crisp. Soon, all across our grand country, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. But what exactly are we celebrating? Is it turkey and football? Is it just having a day off of work? None of those are bad, but they do miss the point. I checked the Dictionary.com for a definition.
1.) Giving act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially from God.
2.) an expression of thanks, especially to God.
3.) a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor.
4.) a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
Perhaps in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy one might feel hard pressed to give thanks. However, most people I’ve spoken to or read about have shown great spirit and resiliency and offering a ‘it could have been worse’ attitude. Perhaps this is because during times of crisis, upheaval and tragedy we both need, and can draw, strength from God.
Thanksgiving is about giving “thanks” to God. That was the intent when our Presidents instituted its observance.
George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation:
" Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
During the terrible years of the Civil War and difficult Reconstruction, our Presidents called the nation to “Thanksgiving.”
Abraham Lincoln wrote;
by the President of the United States of America;
"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years 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 can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God...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, tranquility, and union."
1865, Andrew Johnson,
"Whereas our Heavenly Father has also during the year graciously averted from us the calamities of foreign war, pestilence, and famine, while our granaries are full of the fruits of an abundant season; and
Whereas righteousness exalteth a nation, while sin is a reproach to any people :
Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby recommend to the people thereof that they do set apart and observe the first Thursday of December next as a day of national thanksgiving to the Creator of the Universe for these great deliverances and blessings.
And I do further recommend that on that occasion the whole people make confession of our national sins against His infinite goodness, and with one heart and one mind implore the divine guidance in the ways of national virtue and holiness."
And let us not forget Job of the Bible. Who, after losing every possession and all his children, turned, not away from God, but to Him;
“and he fell on the ground and worshiped. He said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” Job.1:20-22
On that day I enjoy our turkey, football (Detroit is getting better! Maybe), family and friends that gather. But as we sit around the table, even before saying grace, we go around from person to person as each gives thanks to The Lord God for His blessings to them.
So let us remember, As Robert Caspar Lintner wrote; “Thanksgiving is nothing if not a glad and reverent lifting of the heart to God in honor and praise for His goodness.”
The Day is a annual holiday, but a heart of gratitude gives ‘thanks’ daily. So this Thanksgiving, let’s keep the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving directed to our Sovereign God. As King David penned:
Ps. 69:30 “I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”