More than Turkey Day

On October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that the last Thursday of November would be observed as the national holiday of Thanksgiving. But think about that for a moment...what was going on in 1863? Abraham Lincoln instituted Thanksgiving as a national holiday right in the middle of the civil war. A time that our country was marred by bloodied division. 

Why establish a holiday like that during such a devastating time? According to Lincoln's proclamation, he saw the despair of the world, but he could not ignore the reality of God's mercy (click here to see the full proclamation). While a battle raged all around, Lincoln saw that God still provided things like crops, material goods, health, order (outside of the conflict), and a hope for a day in which freedom would reign. He knew that God had not completely removed His hand of blessings and that the future always persisted with hope. 

That isn't to say that there weren't people who suffered extreme loss during the war. In the midst of recognizing the blessings that persisted, Lincoln drew attention to those who had become "widows, orphans, mourners, or suffers in the lamentable civil strife." He called on the nation to offer up prayers for those who were struggling. He fervently requested that God would heal the wounds of the broken nation. 

When I read Lincoln's proclamation, I am reminded what Thanksgiving is all about. We live in a world full of strife and conflict. We see hatred or injustice all around. But that does not mean we have nothing for which to be thankful. We each have been abundantly blessed, so we are called to thank God for His blessings. There are many who are struggling and hurting (you might be one); so we lift up those people to God for healing. And we look toward the future with a sense of hope that God has a perfect plan for our future. 

No, the civil war did not end for almost two more years. But there was still a lot for which to be thankful. And if we are thankful, to whom do we show thanks? Certainly we foremost show thanks to the very giver of life who has provided abundantly more. We celebrate the hope of freedom, especially an eternal freedom through Jesus Christ.