By: Chaplain & Patient Advocate Chip Sekulich
On September 28, 1789, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution. It was a time of great excitement in this new nation. Giving thanks seemed the right thing to do, can the same be said today?
During a time of great division and upheaval in our country, it may be even more important to stop and count our blessings, recognizing the goodness of our God—in spite of the conflict and uncertainty in nearly every quarter of this great nation. That was evidently the thinking of President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 when he proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving to be held on Thursday, November 26, 1863. 1863 was a bloody, decisive, and divisive year in a vicious Civil War that was tearing the country apart, pitting brother against brother. Lincoln understood the sacrifice required to keep the country together, and the tremendous loss of life that would be required, a sickening cost for the end of a dark chapter in our history. But this was also the beginning of a new day where ALL Americans would be free and equal.
In spite of our national trauma, Lincoln saw the almighty hand of God at work as he wrote,
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the 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. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
It has been 160 years since Lincoln signed this proclamation and in the closing section his words still ring true as he called for specific prayer from the American people;
“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, tranquility and Union.”
It is indeed of historical significance that both Washington and Lincoln proclaimed Thursday, November 26th as a National Day of Thanksgiving during a tumultuous time in the nation’s history. 2020 offers another opportunity to express Thanksgiving during a challenging time. Please take a moment to thank your God, in your own way, for His amazing Grace and blessings bestowed on each of us.
In spite of the tremendous hardships that so many Americans have incurred in 2020, perhaps there is no more important time to maintain a state of gratitude.
May you and your family be blessed so that you may be a blessing to others.