Although it underwent some editing, this is largely the same post I sent out last Thanksgiving. I need to be reminded of its truth this holiday season, and I suspect I am not alone.
You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but it’s two days until Thanksgiving.
Many around me spend November striving to be more thankful. Perhaps you’ve seen the posts on social media, listing a new tidbit of thankfulness each day this month. That seems to be in the spirit of the original intent of the holiday.
After all, what is Thanksgiving if it isn’t designed to turn our hearts toward . . . prayer.
Oh, not what you were expecting?
Origins of Thanksgiving
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of . . . ~First United States National Thanksgiving Proclamation, November 1777, Continental Congress
Although the debate swirls around where and when the first Thanksgiving on American soil happened, we know that it didn’t originate within the borders of what became known as the United States.
For millennia, ceremonies and celebrations had been common throughout the world after harvest. During the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s, the leaders decided to decrease the number of church holidays. They opted for specially called Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving.
The Focus of Thanksgiving Laid Out by Congress
Our Thanksgiving today actually looks quite different from what our forefathers imagined. Consider these words from the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1778, issued by the Continental Congress:
It having pleased Almighty God, through the course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold mercies on the people of these United States; and it being the indispensable duty of all men gratefully to acknowledge their obligations to Him for benefits received:
… It is further recommended, that, together with devout thanksgiving, may be joined a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior; so that, under the smiles of Heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our liberty and independence secured, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, our husbandry and manufactures encreased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good.
And it is also recommended, that recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such a solemnity may be omitted on that day.
Did you see that last sentence? Recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such a solemnity may be omitted on that day. Seems to me that board games, touch football, sports on the television, and early holiday shopping would all need to be removed from our family celebrations.
I’m not actually suggesting we revamp our November holiday to look more like what it did in the late 1700s. I enjoy the fun and games with my family, the laughter and giggles we share with a funny movie, and the quiet moments I lose in a good book.
Instead, I advocate a deeper purpose. I submit we do more than make a list of what we’re glad we own or are able to do. I propose we turn our thankfulness into prayer.
1. Let us not merely be thankful. Let us be thankful to God.
Counting our blessings is good. Remembering the One who allowed the blessings is better.
2. Let us not forget our sinfulness.
Many of the early proclamations by Congress and Presidents went a step further than asking people to acknowledge God’s unmerited favor upon them. As written in the full transcript of the Proclamation quoted above, they wanted people to make a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior.
3. Thanksgiving combined with confession served a purpose.
The Continental Congress expressed it well:
So that, under the smiles of Heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our liberty and independence secured, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, our husbandry and manufactures encreased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good.
Want to see some improvements in everything from our government to our military to our schools to our manufacturing and other businesses. Ever considered thanksgiving and confession?
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 . . . ~President George Washington, October 1789
So, Thanksgiving is in two days. Think any changes need to be made to the plans at your house?
Moving is hard! But in my children’s book, A New Home for Allie, one of the things Allie’s parents try to get her to see is that she can find lots of good in with all the sadness of change.
Allie loves her home in Kenya. But her dad works for the Animal Jungle Patrol, and he just got orders to move their family to Somalia. She has many questions, and the journey will be long. Will the new place be like what she knows? Will she find friends in her new home? And will she ever see her best friend again? What awaits her in A New Home for Allie?