Can We Be Grateful Post-Thanksgiving?
It’s the week after Thanksgiving and I’m still recovering from over-eating and decorating the house for Christmas. It is also a time to reflect the reasons we often forget to slow down and focus on thankfulness and gratefulness.
For the past few years, I’ve seen many social media posts during the month of November that focus on two things—no shave November and thankfulness posts. While I didn’t miss seeing (in person or on social media) the faces of guys who banished a razor for a month, I did miss seeing the small reminders that Thanksgiving is a time to focus on the Giver of gifts and not just the blessing of what we have been given.
Was it because we just finished a contentious presidential election? Have we become a culture more divided than united? Is it because we have allowed our lives to become too busy to stop and reflect on what we have rather than what we don’t have?
While I know the Thanksgiving holiday is past us, it is not too late to consider why it is an important lesson in American history and an important spiritual lesson we can implement each day.
Prior to Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday, which mainly occurred in the New England and northern states. George Washington was the first president to declare a day of Thanksgiving, but it would be Abraham Lincoln who would consider the request from a persistent 74-year-old woman, Sarah Joseph Hale. As the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she petitioned Lincoln for a national Thanksgiving holiday. Her petition was granted, and on October 3, 1863, Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday of November would be set aside as a day of thanksgiving and praise.
Consider our country in 1863 and compare it to today’s headlines. The United States was not united. In fact, we were right in the middle of the Civil War. We were a country divided. Families were against families. Brothers fought against brothers. And yet, in the middle of divisiveness and war, our country set aside a day for thankfulness.
Written by the Secretary of State William H. Seward, the focus was not on what the country had gained or lost, but on the Giver of gifts, who deserves our thankfulness. If you haven’t stopped to read the proclamation made by Lincoln, take a moment today to read it. More importantly, take a post-Thanksgiving moment and offer your thanks to the Lord, not just on one day of the year, but every day. May we live out 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We could all use a little more gratefulness in our lives, especially as we approach the birth of our Savior.
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
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 unequalled 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, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, 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.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Proclamation source: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm