Why Thanksgiving Day is not what it used to be in our nation
Thanksgiving was instituted as a time for Americans to give thanks to God, specifically Jesus Christ, the one and only God, for the blessings He has bestowed on our nation. They understood their sinfulness, realized their need for repentance and recognized that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." Thus Henry Laurens, President of the Continental Congress, signed the First National Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 1, 1777, setting apart December thirteenth of that year "for solemn thanksgiving and praise." Part of it reads, "it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for the benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of…with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts…that…they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins…and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance…"
Then, in a time of civil war, Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday with his Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863: "It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord..."
Today, however, Thanksgiving has degenerated into "Turkey Day" or a time to watch football and eat a lot. A key component in the thankfulness expressed in the proclamations above is missing from the living rooms of Americans today. Only by acknowledging their sin and "in humble sorrow" and with "the penitent confession" of them were they worthy to express their gratitude to God. Instead today many have redefined sin as anything that does not hurt anyone else. Certainly this is nothing worth being broken over and is unrelated to thankfulness. Without respect for "the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures" our nation is left without any standard with which to judge itself.
Hence, unlike our nation in 1777 and 1863, our nation today has moved away from the biblical concept of praise and thanks to God, not just for the "things" we have but also for salvation. What have we to be saved from today? The God of the Bible has been replaced by "what seems right in the eyes of men." God's intolerance for sin and wrath in judgment of it have been ignored or neutralized by compromising theology. Nevertheless, God's wrath is sure and salvation from it can only be found in Jesus Christ. Thus, in the Bible, more than anything else, God is praised for His work of salvation.
Although I do not know about Lincoln's personal relationship to God at least he recognized God's hand in saving and preserving our nation. These words of his in 1863 seem even more important to us today! "But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all the blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."
Second only to praise to God for salvation is an abundance of Scripture praising God for what He has made. For example, in Psalm 148, "Praise ye the Lord…praise Him all His hosts. Praise ye Him sun and moon: praise Him ye stars of light…" Why? Verse five: "…for He commanded, and they were created." In Revelation 4:11 "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power;" Why? "for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created." A natural result of recognizing God as Creator is praise. In contrast, a natural result of rejecting God as Creator and His "eternal power and divine nature" which "have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…" (in Romans 1:20) is seen in the verse 21: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks…" Through every means possible the media, education and even the church our nation is told God is not creator and instead a blind, purposeless explanation of evolution is given.
Only by returning to the understanding of God as Creator and a recognition or our sinfulness and need for a Savior will our nation be capable of thanksgiving on Thanksgiving.
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Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen