The practice of stopping and thanking God for His blessings is as American as roast turkey and apple pie. The Pilgrims ushered in our annual tradition in 1621. It was reinforced by numerous proclamations over the next four hundred years. Governor Bradford, of Plymouth Plantation, issued the first such proclamation in 1623, two years after the first Thanksgiving was celebrated. Different colonies and states proclaimed their own days of thanksgiving over the years. The tradition was continued by Governor Dummer, of Massachusetts Bay, in 1723. The first "national proclamation" of Thanksgiving was made by by the United States Congress, in 1777, only a year after declaring independence. Congress kept declaring days of thanksgiving throughout the Revolutionary War. Afterwards, many Presidents, beginning with Washington, kept the tradition alive. It was Lincoln who set the national standard, ordering that government offices shut down and that the last Thursday of November be set aside for a day of praise and prayer.
Many of these proclamations did not wait for times of peace and prosperity. People thanked God while enduring hardship. Pilgrims gave thanks after their numbers were cut from 100 to almost 50. Congress asked the nation to praise God only a year into the 8-year revolution. Lincoln called for thankfulness while the carnage of the Civil War raged on. It is a sobering thought. We are called to thank God, even when things aren’t going our way. This kind of Thanksgiving alters my perspective.
Giving thanks is not being happy after getting what I want. It is first and foremost an act of faith. When I thank God, I declare my dependence on Him. I recognize He is good, even when things for me go bad. To give thanks is to have a perspective that looks beyond past and present circumstances. This perspective is hopeful about the future while acknowledging life's brevity. It looks toward eternity.
This thanksgiving, tune out the noise of the news, economy and politics. Tune in with a renewed perspective that declares dependence on the God who made you and sustains you. This God gave his one and only Son to save those lost in the darkness. Rekindle that faith by giving thanks and regain the hope that burns undiminished, even when the earthly light flickers.
Read Psalm 136