“Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.”   Author Robert Caspar

Thanksgiving – Let me just begin with full disclosure…I Love Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas!  I know that you purists want to keep these two holidays separate, but for me each of them enhances the other. If it weren’t for Thanksgiving we’d miss the history of so many people that have honored and given thanks to God for blessing us with all that we’ve been given.  And if it weren’t for CHRISTmas there would be little reason to truly give thanks, even for the struggles and tough times. It is because of Christ that we have all things and we should continually be offering our thanks to Him.  (Hebrews 13:15-16)

I have to say that my parents and family had a lot to do with my view of the holidays. It wasn’t until I was in my later teens that I even knew that these wonderful holidays filled with so many great times and memories for me could also hold sorrow, grief, pain and loss for many others.   

Holidays can also bring great stress, frustration, angst and anxiety, any or all of which can rob us of the peace and joy that we desire and see in the movies and hear in the songs!  Is that joy and peace real and attainable, or a pipe dream crafted in fairy tale media and cultural marketing?

Over the next three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and then the four weeks heading into CHRISTmas, we’re going to take a look at the history, the reality and the reasons why these holidays should mean so much to us.  For those who love the holidays as I do, I pray that you grow to love them even more and know The One to whom we owe our thanks.  For those who struggle to make it through, my prayer is that you find The One to Whom we can and should give all thanks; the CHRIST of CHRISTmas and the joy, peace and love that He brings.

A Brief History: Thanksgiving Always Belongs to God—From Israel to Plymouth Rock; From Washington to Lincoln to Today

We have so much to be thankful for and yet there is also much that we wish to forget.  How do we celebrate a holiday? Even more importantly how do we give thanks in all things as we’re called to do as Christ’s followers?

Scripture is replete with God’s people giving thanks to Him continually.  The Old Testament includes numerous times and circumstances where God’s people were constantly giving thanks to Him in worship and praise (see Leviticus 7:11-15; Ezra 3:10-12; Nehemiah 11:16-18; 12: 7-9, 24, 46; Psalm 100) for many reasons.  This pointed to continual Thanksgiving, setting an example for us that is pleasing to God.  The New Testament sums it up by simply telling us to give thanks “in every situation” and “in all circumstances”  (Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Look for more on how we can do this as we continue through this series.

Fast-forward to the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock: the Pilgrims celebrated what we commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. Ninety Native Americans and approximately 50 Pilgrims (the survivors of the 100 that had made the journey from the Old World) attended the feast, which lasted three days, according to attendee Edward Winslow.

Yet this was more of a continuance of what they had always known.  The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings, following the examples of God’s people found in Scripture.

Thanksgiving in general, and in particular to God, continued to be prevalent and emphasized in the founding of the USA.  Founding Father and our First President, George Washington proclaimed, “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 favors.   (Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789)

In the middle of our country’s darkest moment, President Lincoln echoed and magnified President Washington’s reminder: we must remember to give thanks, and, even more importantly, Who we must give our thanks to, acknowledging our many blessings, even in the most horrific circumstances. This officially instituted Thanksgiving as a Holiday in our country. (Take time to read all of this and remember the circumstances under which it was given and be encouraged to be thankful.)

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… 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 consciousness 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, tranquility 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 United States the Eighty-eighth.

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.  “We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?  “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.  “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.  “It has seemed to me fit and proper that God 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 as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.”  — Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving proclamation, Oct. 3, 1863

One final reminder of our country’s history with Thanksgiving to God Almighty:  almost exactly one hundred years after Lincoln’s official proclamation President John F. Kennedy issued Proclamation 3560 on November 5, 1963, stating, “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together and for the faith which united them with their God.”

Our country is in a faith crisis…defining God in our image, promoting sexual immorality through media, education and government, and even in some of our churches, denying the religious freedoms without which any and every nation eventually crumbles.  But we have so much to be thankful for!  So let us give thanks to God for all He has blessed us with, seen us through and prepared us for.

Our prayer at Love and Lordship is that we as individuals, as families, as Christ’s Church, would remind those in our spheres of influence and be an example to our country of what His love, grace and mercy are as we offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.  Hebrews 13:15

Here are two articles that can help further remind us of the importance of Thanksgiving as a holiday and as a lifestyle in praise to Him!

God is Good – Give Thanks!… 

30 Days of Thanksgiving –

Next week:  How to Survive and Thrive at Thanksgiving

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – How have past Thanksgivings impacted your approach to this holiday?  How has your approach impacted you and those in your life when it comes to celebrating (or not) Thanksgiving?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Seriously…take a few minutes to write down at least three people, three things and three trials you are thankful for.  Spend some time thanking God, and others, as applicable.  Think about how an attitude of gratitude impacts your Thanksgiving, your life, your family and others.