How can we celebrate Thanksgiving after a difficult year?
Let’s start with this: President James Madison in 1815 was the one who created the tradition of setting aside a day for the people of the United States to Give Thanks to the Creator for the goodness of our land. It would be good for us to reflect on what the original intent of this day was to be as, with so many things in our country we have forgotten who and what we are and that which was intended for us.
By the President of the United States of America A Proclamation
The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.
No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. [ . . . ] And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.
It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.
Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A. D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty- ninth.
Two items come to mind as I approach this Thanksgiving Day. First, how did we get so far from a President encouraging us to go to our churches to pray on Thanksgiving Day to the ACLU thrusting itself upon us to declare anathema any kind of mention of God in public speech at all!
Then there’s this: How many families turn off the football games for a moment and actually pause at the Thanksgiving table to have family members reflect on what they’re thankful for and to offer thanks for them?
How ‘bout your family? What are your traditions around the Thanksgiving table? Do you pray? (If you don’t have a ritual of sorts, perhaps you can start one. Take a few minutes and ask folks to write one thing they’re thankful for; then mix them up and have others share them instead of rushing into eating.
How many of us are really thoughtful about what we have to be thankful for this year as we approach the day. Especially about where our country is this year.
As I look over the past year, I see so much suffering in our country and throughout the world. I have a sensitive heart, I’m thinking of all those folks particularly.
We’ve been through three major hurricanes, as well as tornadoes, winter storms, and ravishing wild fires in the West. And on top of that, we’re dealing with climate deniers who are making it more difficult for those particularly on the coasts to cope with what must be done to prepare for the future. As Pope Francis has pointed out, it’s the poor who are hurt the most by Climate Change. And we’ve seen that dramatically in the sufferings of the poor in these hurricanes.
And my heart aches for so many migrants and refugees throughout the world—some of whom are stateless. And in our own country, what’s going to be the fate of the DACA young people who’ve known no other country than our own, but maybe cruelly deported anyway?
Then there’s the senseless and insane issue of gun violence.
Sandy Hook—the slaughter of the innocents / Charleston SC / Charlottesville / London –twice / Paris –twice / Orlando / Las Vegas / a church in Texas. Where does it stop? When?
Are we at prayer as we approach Thanksgiving Day?
Are we truly thankful for what we have in this country?
+ Freedom of Speech. Some don’t want others to have that these days.
+ Freedom of the Press. That, too, could be threatened.
+ Freedom of Assembly. For the right to protest / the right to organize / the right for unions to meet.
+ The possibility of work. But not all have it or enough of it or at a living wage.
+ The possibility of a decent education. But again, not all are getting it.
+ The possibility of decent health care. Again, who can get it and who cannot?
Is America the bright beacon of a hill it once was? Do other countries look up to us as they once did?
As I think about these questions two days before Thanksgiving 2017, I feel not a little sad. Do I feel as proud to be an American as I used to be? I wish I could, but honestly, I think we’re in trouble.
For one thing, on the world stage, we are leading with threats rather diplomacy.
I feel rather embarrassed for us at times. And I can be a little afraid of the saber-rattling.
These days seem to me more like ancient Israel when they had lost their way and were unfaithful to God.
And yet—and yet, all through my own life’s struggles, I’ve learned to continue to pick myself up and sing: “I’ll go on and praise Him; I’ll go on . . . “
And so, dear friends, so will we! If we thank the Lord for the gifts He gives us day in and day out, day in and day out. And Praise Him—No. Matter. What.
We are living in difficult times.
We do not know what lies ahead of us.
Some of us look forward with confidence;
others are fraught with fear.
But let us remember that if we look to you, Lord,
You will be our Strength and even our Joy.
Please be with us in our land today
and bless us.
Bless our President and elected officials
that they would serve all of the people of this land.
And so, we give you thanks this day for all of the blessings
You have showered upon our country and each of us.
Please bless us most of all with peace among nations
and peace here at home.
To You be all Glory and Honor and Thanksgiving. Amen!
And now, before you go, here’s the great hymn “Now thank we all our God,” sung in a great cathedral. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And please pray along with the lyrics as you listen!
Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory. Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he as done for you, by blessing and extolling his name i song. Before all people, honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising him. (Tobit 12:6)