Do you know when Thanksgiving was established as a national holiday?
Do you know it had nothing to do with pilgrims and Native Americans?
It was in the midst of the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln looked at the state of the union and saw that despite the horrid destruction of war God was still blessing the country mightily with an abundance of resources and a growing population. He did what many of us do on Thanksgiving, he counted the blessings of God. Then he declared a national holiday of thanksgiving, reflecting the one that most had ceased celebrating inaugurated by George Washington after the American Revolution.
I encourage you to take the time to read the actual words penned by both men.
Both men declared a day of thanksgiving for us to unite in brotherhood, count our blessings, and praise God for them. It was also a day to humble ourselves and repent of sin. Lincoln encouraged us to make restitution for our national “perverseness and disobedience” and to implore God’s hand to heal and restore our brotherhood with one another. If you read Washington’s proclamation he will add to this an encouragement to not forget who is the sovereign ruler of all nations and not take for granted the freedoms and liberties God allowed through the creation of the Constitution.
There is no mention of feasting, in fact solemn days of prayer were often days of fasting.
There is no mention of parades and the engagement of sport, in fact it was to be a day of repentance.
I cannot say I’ve ever celebrated Thanksgiving with the intent Lincoln and Washington declared it.
So this year, I’m vowing to change the course of our traditions. In addition to encouraging my family to give thanks for all we have been blessed with, we will also give thought to how we have failed to be good brothers and sisters to one another, our community, our nation. We will talk about some of the major ways we’ve failed as a society to see one another as brothers and sisters. The times we’ve not stopped to help the poor, the widow, the orphan; times we’ve talked about not liking the way things were going but took no action; and remember the times we as a country have not showed brotherly love to other countries and people.
Most of all we will look to God for forgiveness and a change of heart toward our brothers. To see God’s goodness as the source of all blessing and as the hymn says, “to crown God’s good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” God has a great deal to say about brotherhood in scripture. From “Am I my brother’s keeper?” to “love your brother also”, God gives over 300 references to brotherhood.
I encourage you to take time this week to pray that He would show you how to be a better brother or sister to your family, your neighbors, your community, your nation. How would you define brotherhood? How does the knowledge of the creation of Thanksgiving going to change how you honor the day? I can’t wait to hear from you.