Proclamation 118—Thanksgiving Day, 1864
October 20, 1864
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.
Is it just me, or is the holiday Thanksgiving fading from the calendar? One minute everything is orange, black-hairy-scary, and the next it’s Christmas gold and sparkle.
I want to blame the political climate or societal shift, but Thanksgiving’s demise began in our hearts long before it grew dim on our agenda. Discontentment in life leads to disrespect of authority which basically poops any party.
Are there things wrong in our country? Of course.
Are there things right? Of course.
Is it wrong to be thankful even if things aren’t perfect? Ah…nooooo.
The apostle Paul knew quite a bit about giving thanks when life stunk. He wrote a bunch of letters with a lot of instruction about joy from some pretty difficult places to find it.
- Hard work
- In prison
- Whipped innumerable times
- Faced death again and again
- Beaten with rods
- Stoned (2 Cor. 11:23-29)
Just to name a few.
And in a dank Roman cell he encouraged thanksgiving.
“…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17, NKJV.
How in the world did Paul do it? The society he lived in and its political climate certainly did not foster godly living or inward sweetness. Yet, within the tears he shed, and oh yes he did, and within a depressed spirit, and oh yes he had one, Paul encouraged thanksgiving. (Don’t believe me? Check out 2 Cor. 1:8-9 and 2 Cor. 2:4).
If you feel you may be losing Thanksgiving, here are four things woven throughout Paul’s letters that may help unchain your gratitude.
- Free your Thanksgiving from circumstance.
- Embrace the humble heart of repentance.
- Rejoice in the truth of the Gospel.
- Plant your joy deep in the Person of Jesus Christ.
America was in chaos in 1864. In personal grief and national sadness, a day of Thanksgiving was declared. Lincoln’s proclamation in the midst of it pointed to the object of our thanksgiving. Because when God evaporates from the scene, dissatisfaction grows. Whenever “what” upstages “Who” Thanksgiving becomes insipid, its richness lost.
“…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Let’s not let this one pale.
Let’s find Thanksgiving again.