Brothers and Sisters,
In 1941 President Roosevelt signed into law the celebration of a National Thanksgiving to be on the fourth Thursday of November. Yet, a national day of Thanksgiving had a long history. It goes all the way back to the beginning, long before the U.S. became a country. Appropriately, George Washington, our first U.S. president issued on 3 October 1789, at the request of Congress, our first U.S. Thanksgiving proclamation. It goes as follows:
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. Go. Washington
The clear purpose of our holiday of Thanksgiving is in the name: to give thanks to God for “His kind care and protection of the people.” The Lord is gracious and merciful. All we are and all we possess are gifts from him. This month, as we prepare for and celebrate Thanksgiving, remember the Lord’s provision, and give thanks all month long. Our forefathers knew their dependence upon God, and called all Americans to thanksgiving and prayer. Times, of course, have changed. Yet, I pray our current leaders either understand or come to understand this truth. May our prayers not only be for thanks, but for the Lord’s continued blessing on our country. May we pray that the Lord will forgive our country’s sins against him, and turn the citizens of this great land to him in worship and acknowledgement of his great blessings upon us.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!