Thanksgiving has been a central idea in American history and culture, even before there was an America. Of course all Americans have learned about the first Thanksgiving back in 1621 with the Pilgrims and the Indians, but there’s much more in our heritage that relates. From the time of our first President, George Washington, we have had proclamations of Thanksgiving. Abraham Lincoln had one that was quite famous in 1863, and Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the years that followed.
I know that many today might want to argue this, but I think that this notion of Thanksgiving has had a profound effect on our Nation. Here’s why: Giving thanks both as an individual and as a Nation requires humility and a recognition that there is an Authority greater than any human authority. For the leader of a Nation to ask the people to pause to thank God means that they recognize that their own government is not the source of all good things.
An individual must come to the same conclusion. He or she is not the great source of all goodness or all success; there is One who is greater, and as we pause to thank Him, we acknowledge that He is greater than we. It is clear that our early leaders believed in this way, and it is equally clear that our people in general did as well. this is why many people throughout the years have suspected that God blessed the USA more than He blessed many other Nations of the world. Now I’m not so quick to jump in with a big “Amen” to that, but I cannot deny that He has blessed us greatly.
Sadly, however, I’m not convinced that our leaders and our people in general still hold to these beliefs as they once did. I’ve been listening in recent weeks to merchants complain that Thanksgiving comes too late this year; it’s going to hurt Christmas sales. Then I hear ads that announce that many retailers will be open on Thanksgiving day so that we can shop for Christmas early. People I know speak of their plans for great festivities and talk about their family time on Thanksgiving, and look horrified when I mention giving thanks…
Maybe it’s always been this way and I’m just looking at our past with rose-colored glasses; I know this happens when people think of the “good old days.” I wonder, have we lost our focus, or did we never have it at all?
Who can really say?
I know this for sure, however. If we decide to have a day set aside for giving thanks and we take it seriously, this observance will be preserved for future generations. If we do this and speak openly of thankfulness to God with our neighbors and friends, they might get the idea, and what once was just might, by God’s grace be rekindled in our country. Yes, you’re right, it probably is a long shot. Isn’t it a shot worth taking?