For hundreds of years, Sundays belonged to the Lord, but for a while now they have been owned by the NFL. Thanksgiving has also become a NFL holiday. Many today have no idea of or inclination toward the spiritual significance of this religious holiday. It deserves a look back.
The Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth colony in 1621 had begun their journey12 years earlier, when they fled to Holland from religious persecution in England. Then with strong faith in the providence of God that He was leading them to a new land where they would enjoy religious freedom, they boarded the Mayflower and sailed for America.
Their oceanic voyage took twice as long as that of Christopher Columbus and was beset by several harsh winter storms. Of 130 people on board, only two died, but when they arrived in their new land, they faced more bitter cold, danger, famine, and disease. By spring, half of the colony had died. Nevertheless, when the Mayflower made its return voyage in the spring, not one of the survivors returned with it.
Their first harvest was in the autumn of 1621. Their own seed had barely grown, but the Indians had shown them how to plant maize (corn), and it yielded a bountiful harvest. This called for celebration and thanksgiving to God. On that first Thanksgiving, they celebrated God’s goodness with 90 Indians, and their feast lasted three days.
The custom of holding annual Thanksgivings that began with the Plymouth congregation spread to other congregations in Connecticut and to the Massachusetts Bay colony. The custom then spread to other New England colonies, and by the time of the Revolutionary War in 1776, Thanksgiving proclamations also included thanking God for granting the colonists victories over their British enemies. On October 17, 1777, the President of the Continental Congress, Elias Boudinot, who was also president of the American Bible Society, declared a day of solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God. For the first time, Thanksgiving was celebrated in all 13 states.
In 1789, upon the launch of the new federal government under the new U.S. Constitution, President George Washington proclaimed a day of national Thanksgiving. The presidents that followed George Washington continued to issue such proclamations, but it was still the individual states’ choice to officially acknowledge the day. Gradually, it became widespread in state after state.
In 1846, Sarah J. Hale, a Christian supported by the Congregational and Presbyterian churches, began a crusade to nationalize Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be “a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”
Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
In this proclamation, President Lincoln spoke of the country’s great advancement, new territories, population growth, and abundant increase of resources:
“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 the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…”
At the time, the country was bitterly divided by civil war, more than a half-million lives had been lost in the decimating battles to abolish slavery. In spite of this tremendous loss, Lincoln perceived the hand of God was upon the nation, and he spoke of God’s divine purposes for the future:
“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, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy…”
The fact that national repentance was a vital part of celebrating Thanksgiving is a little known truth today, and it is certainly not acceptable to many Americans whose consciousness of sin has become dull, if not dead. Anyone who truly understands America’s Christian foundation, however, is not surprised by this proclamation that not only established our solemn duty to offer God thanksgiving for all His bountiful blessings—and we are the most blessed nation in the history of the earth—but that we should also offer humble repentance for our sins, as Lincoln expressed:
“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 as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.
“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due 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.”
Today, such a prayer of repentance in public places is decried as a violation of church and state, and falsely purported as being unconstitutional. I find this quite curious, since it was in celebration of the Constitution that President Washington issued a national proclamation of Thanksgiving “for the signal favors of Almighty God.”
The racism in America is worse than it has been in decades and is losing its voice of social outrage in the violence it breeds. No one can hear what is being said above the fray of hateful killings and threats of more violence. Angry voices cry for justice for wrongs while perpetrating senseless acts of destruction and death that cannot be justified. There will be no civil war of armies against armies as in the Civil War of Lincoln’s presidency, which ultimately cost his life. But the sworn violence that many have taken up as a cause will take its toll in lives on all sides of the division: white, black, and blue. And the disrespect of America so blatantly displayed as a viable protest against racial injustice, only weakens the nation. It is inevitable. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25).
Is America A Christian Nation?
Our current President of the United States said that it is not. Many changes have replaced human counsel for the biblically moral counsel and principles that are America’s DNA and that have grown and guided this nation 400 years. Religious persecution of Christianity demands all references to God, the Bible, and especially Jesus Christ, be removed from public squares, schools, and military bases. Even a cross that had stood in a remote desert place to honor those fallen in war was taken down, and a Christian university hosting a presidential appearance had to cover up a cross in the background for the televised presidential speech.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, who will you be giving thanks to? The U.S. government with its pervasive corruption and coercion? The equally corrupt banks and financial institutions? The liberal news media which have forsaken their pledge to speak the truth without bias, and cater to powerful liberals? The political pundits who spin lies and hide the truth? These entities who openly mock people of faith (except Muslims)? Planned Parenthood, who has not only gotten away with the heinous selling of body parts of aborted babies, but is heralded by this administration, liberals, and Hollywood stars who support them, as being saviors of women?
And on this Thanksgiving, who will be feeding the hungry and homeless across our nation and caring for the poor and needy? The government? Wall Street? Planned Parenthood who rakes in over a half-billion dollars a year of tax payers’ funding? It will be the religious organizations, the Judeo-Christian charities and churches who honor the Word of God given to Moses and Jesus. Who are heirs to those early settlers who saw America as “the Israel of the New World”—God’s chosen land, and as “a city set on a hill” described by Jesus in Matthew 5:14.
Someone needs to tell the government and liberals who are trying to silence Christians and strip us of our religious protections, if they succeed, there will be hundreds of thousands of empty chairs and bare plates at church-sponsored tables across America on Thanksgiving and every day of the year. Someone needs to give them a refresher course on the cause and creation of Christian America’s Thanksgiving holiday. We will be giving thanks to the One who raised America up to the greatest nation on earth, and the only One who can heal our land and “preserve us a nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”