Proclamation of Thanksgiving
We are all familiar with the story of the first Thanksgiving and how the Pilgrims shared dinner with the Indians. But, have you read or studied the proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln used to make Thanksgiving a national holiday? During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to the Proclamation. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.
Sarah Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She explained, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution."
Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale's request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years.
The declaration sets aside the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise." The document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, Thanksgiving became a legal national holiday. Included in his proclamation, President Lincoln said:
- That the United States had enjoyed a year of blessings, that we should soften our hearts to Almighty God in Heaven who is the source.
- That in the midst of a civil war, peace has been restored.
- That our country was enjoying growth associated with wise use of its natural resources.
- That our country’s population was growing, also a blessing from God.
For these reasons and more, Mr. Lincoln invited his fellow citizens to set apart the last Thursday of November as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” If you read the entire proclamation, you would see that our President at that time recognized the source of our blessings!
As we enjoy Thanksgiving Day, let’s recognize our God in Heaven as Mr. Lincoln did. Several passages of scripture are appropriate today:
1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
First Thessalonians 5:18 commands us to be thankful in everything; it doesn’t say be thankful for everything. There is a distinct difference. When things go wrong, we are to give thanks to God in the midst of the trouble. Although all your worldly efforts and pursuits may fail and you’re in the worse season of life, you must still praise God for all He has done. You may not be able to praise God for your circumstances, but you can praise God that He is with you in those circumstances.
Psalm 28:6 Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
Yes, on this Thanksgiving Day, we have reason to rejoice. We enjoy freedoms that many of our neighbors around this globe do not possess. We may enjoy reasonable health and a Heavenly home awaits us when we’re finished living here! While traveling across this earth through this dimension called time, God gives us gifts and abilities to use to serve Him. He also gives us grace to overcome obstacles and extends mercy to us, who deserve His judgment.
Remember to thank God for His Son! And have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Devotional message prepared by Jim Huber. President Lincoln’s Proclamation came from the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler; http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm