In the United States, Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday during the War Between the States in 1863. Prior to that time, many states had held their own observances of a day of Thanksgiving on different days. Sarah Josepha Hale thought Thanksgiving should be a national Holiday and suggested it to President Lincoln who immediately acted upon it and made the proclamation that Americans should henceforth observe a day of Thanksgiving to God on the fourth Thursday in November. This proclamation was made in the midst of the terrible war that had divided our country. President Lincoln realized that even in the darkest times, we can recognize God’s presence and bounty in our lives. Thanksgiving continues to be a favorite holiday of mine because, while so many other holidays have been cheapened by commercialism, the understanding that we need to give thanks still underlies all that happens on this day.
When we really think about it, there is so much to give thanks for on this day. Where this holiday has been weakened though, is the emphasis on “thanks” without understanding the source of the blessings. Many are thankful for different things, but they forget the “who” of Thanksgiving. As I think about this day, I make a special effort to remember who I give thanks to and the amazing way He’s changed my life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Peter reminds us of the most important reason to be thankful to God: our lives have been changed so that we no longer follow the corruption of the world, now should live godly lives because we follow Him. Peter reminds us that it isn’t our effort that brings us into this relationship, it’s God’s divine power. He’s given us everything we need through knowledge of Him, through His glory, and through His goodness. This doesn’t mean that we instantly become perfect. Paul noted that now we know Him imperfectly, but by the end, we shall know Him perfectly. We come to this knowledge not through our own efforts, but because of who He is and the goodness He exhibits. In other words, we come to Him through His grace. We participate in the body of Christ because, through His mercy and grace, we have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
I’m thankful today because I know what God has done in my life and how He has changed me. I’m not perfect yet. I still have plenty of faults. I’m thankful that God’s still working on me. I have His promises and hope that’s based on His grace and His goodness, not on my own abilities. I think that if there’s any confusion at this time of year, it’s not about what we’re to be thankful for, it’s who. I am immensely thankful for my wife and the rest of my family. They are an amazing blessing. But most of all, I’m thankful for God and what He’s done in my life. If Thanksgiving seems a little hollow, or perhaps, incomplete, examine yourself. Are you celebrating a time to be thankful for things and blessings you’ve received, but not recognizing the source of those blessings? If so, let me close with these words from the proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. “They [all the blessings of freedom, liberty and many things] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Lord, you have given us many blessings and gracious gifts because of Your grace and mercy. Thank You.