On September 28th 1863 Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States of America, asking for an Annual Day of Thanksgiving. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale's request immediately. But interestingly, this was not the first such proclamation. George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3 1789, exactly 74 years before Lincoln's.
I had a deep sense of sadness when I read this, reflecting on our own nation that appears so confused and divisive. We live in a nation with a myriad number of commemoration days set aside and sometimes even a whole a week to remember certain things, but do we stop as a nation to offer thanksgiving? Someone has said “The worst moment for the atheist is when he/she is really thankful and has no-one to thank.”
The following is a few extracts from “A Proclamation” by Abraham Lincoln, a proclamation that gives us all cause to pause and reflect.
“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….
“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…
“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, tranquillity and Union… By the President: Abraham Lincoln.”
My prayer, as we enter a New Year in which elections will be so important, is that we don’t find ourselves with no one to thank for the privileges and blessings of this life.
God not only gave us life but in Jesus Christ His son God redeemed our lives for better things. In Him is wisdom for living, forgiveness for when we get living wrong and hope in the face of suffering and death. We can all be grateful for these things but sadly not all will be.