Nov. 21, 2018 – Washington Co., WI – Thanksgiving Day often is a time of reflection, family, and giving thanks to God. Yet, it also has a history of division connected to it as well. Many believe that the first Thanksgiving Day took place in 1621, after the ingathering of the first harvest in a new world, Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony invited the Pilgrims to keep “a day of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.”
This claim of being first is disputed, by the state of Virginia, as they claim that they celebrated as early as 1607, but certainly by 1619 as part of a celebration which gave thanks to God for ships arriving.
Then in 1789, President George Washington set aside Thursday, Nov. 26 as “A Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer”, this decree of law was appointed, and I quote “to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.” (www.founders.archives.gov ) From that point Thanksgiving Day was celebrated off and on until 1863.
In the fall of 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln urged the entire nation to observe a day of prayer and thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. Prior to Lincoln’s setting a national day of Thanksgiving each state set the date for themselves. Yet one thing remained the same as, once again, a governmental leader was attempting to call our nation back to faith in the triune God, Lincoln’s declaration states,
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, …is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most 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. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and 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.” (www.abrahamlincolnonline.org )
This date remained until 1939, when retailers were concerned that the last Thursday of November would fall on the 30th, thus allowing only 24 days of shopping until Christmas. Therefore, the pressure was put on President Franklin Roosevelt to change the date, retailers wanted the date for Thanksgiving Day to be Nov. 23, which was the fourth Thursday in November. This decision caused great political controversy in our country, as two states had two Thanksgiving Days and 30 other states chose to stick with Lincoln’s date. Finally, on Dec. 26, 1941 Congress resolved this problem declaring that Thanksgiving Day would occur on the fourth Thursday of November and Roosevelt signed it into law.
America as a country has a long history of acknowledging the One who is the giver of all good things. At the very founding of our country, the Declaration of Independence, our countries founding document appealed to the Creator to justify our existence as a nation, declaring “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (www.ushistory.org/Declaration/document )
For many today, Thanksgiving Day has become more about football, hunting, and Black Friday shopping than giving thanks to God for His provision. Christians know that our Creator is also our Redeemer and Sanctifier, and He is the only One who deserves our praise and thanks today and every day: the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as spelled out by Holy Scriptures, and defined by the three ecumenical creeds, the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian. So, along with millions of other Christians, may we join in giving thanks to our Lord not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.
So, let me invite you if you don’t already have a church home to join us at Pilgrim Ev. Lutheran Church, we will be having services on Wednesday, Nov. 21, Thanksgiving Eve at 6 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 22, on Thanksgiving Day at 9 a.m.
Postcard photo courtesy Antique and Teacups