Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I think it just may be my favorite holiday, though Christmas is a close second. I love autumn, anyway (though living in South Dakota now I don’t get to enjoy the changing colors of the trees!), but Thanksgiving is such a special time with loved ones, and is accompanied by such yummy food (some of which we get at no other time of the year!) that it is hard to bear. Of course, more than anything else, Thanksgiving is a time that we are basically forced to stop whatever else we have going on and take time to reflect on the many blessings that the Lord has given us.
Thanksgiving is also an important part of national history, from the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Indians, to the many presidential proclamations for days of Thanksgiving and prayer. When it comes to the latter, most of us have seen the more notable proclamations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but there are some wonderful proclamations by other U.S. presidents, too. I am particularly fond of the one issued by President Grover Cleveland in 1887, which reads, in part…
The goodness and the mercy of God, which have followed the American people during all the days of the past year claim our grateful recognition and humble acknowledgment. …
On the day let all secular work and employment be suspended; and let our people assemble in their accustomed places of worship and with prayer and songs of praise, give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all that He has done for us while we implore the forgiveness of our sins and a continuance of His mercy.
Let families and kindred be reunited on that day and let their hearts, filled with kindly cheer and affectionate reminiscence, be turned to the source of all their pleasures and to the Giver of all that makes the day bright and joyous.
And in the midst of our worship and enjoyments let us remember the poor, the needy, and the unfortunate; and by our gifts of charity and ready benevolence let us increase the number of those who with grateful hearts shall join in our Thanksgiving.
I won’t get into what would likely happen if the president (regardless of his name or party) were to issue such a proclamation today. I think we can agree that the response would likely include some legal threat and endless tongue wagging by the ADL, ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Sad, but true.
Nevertheless, I choose to be challenged by Cleveland’s words…to remember to give thanks to God for His many blessings on me and my family, and to remember that I am so much more blessed than so many others who are “poor, needs and unfortunate.” It is also an excellent reminder that no small part of what I have to be thankful for is something that God took away from me–my sins–and that I need to continue to “implore” Him for the forgiveness of the sins I still commit.
As you gather with your friends and family tomorrow, I trust that you will pause to give thanks for God’s blessings on you, and on our nation. There are many verses of Scripture that remind us of the importance of giving thanks. Perhaps none of them are more poignant than Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”