Why You’ve Never Read Washington’s or Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamations

AdminCoaching Corner

We’ll continue with Part 2 of “Why the Election Should Spark Church Reform” next week.  Given our discussion of the diminishing influence of Christianity in society, we felt compelled this week to share official declarations by arguably some of the greatest political leaders in our nation’s history about Thanksgiving.

Few school children are ever shown these proclamations for reasons you are about to see.  If prayer is not allowed in public schools, then these quotes are most certainly off limits.  Administrators likely fear unveiling them not only might offend non-believers, but also debunk the prevailing misrepresentation of the origin and intent of “separation of church and state”.  So instead, students are taught a sanitized, secularized version of the Thanksgiving story.

Studying the history of Thanksgiving, there are many conflicting accounts and some aspects aren’t as rosy as they’re depicted in a 2nd grade classroom.  Depending on the teacher’s point of view, the recounting of original events that led to the holiday may emphasize famine, food and fellowship – or opportunists invading and oppressing established natives.  Either way, public schools don’t share the immortal words of William Bradford, Washington or Lincoln giving all glory, honor, praise and thanks to almighty God:

The invitation from Governor William Bradford of “Plymouth Plantation” to the first Thanksgiving celebration on December 13, 1621 read…

“All ye Pilgrims with your wives and little ones do gather at the Meeting House, on the hill… there to listen to the pastor, and render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings.”

The first National Thanksgiving Proclamation, signed by Henry Laurens in 1777, President of the Continental Congress, began…

“Forasmuch as 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 benefits received, and to implore such father blessings as they stand in need of…it is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States to set apart Thursday the 18th day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor…”

George Washington wrote his famed National Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, saying…

“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…’”

Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation on October 3, 1863 of an annual National Day of Thanksgiving stated…

“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, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. 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 next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”

Lessons for #GiveAnEternalGift

Reading those excerpts, you may be surprised to learn that the actual Thanksgiving Day declarations were as Christ-centered as the proclamations making Christmas Day a national holiday.  Just like non-Christians and retailers have tried to turn our attention from our Savior to Santa and from Believing to Buying, they’ve reduced Thanksgiving from Faith to Family and from Compassion to Consumption.

Those same contrasting forces that compete for our allegiance at Christmas have crept back into our Thanksgiving celebrations.  Stores used to kick off Black Friday on Friday – imagine that!  Seeing the madness that ensued when they opened their doors at 6:00am, retailers sensed the opportunity to start even earlier – first midnight Thursday and then at 8:00pm.  Now, Walmart has announced its Black Friday sale begins at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving Day, right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner.

#GiveAnEternalGift seeks to keep the focus of Christians on serving others and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We bristle at the first mention of “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”, but we can only accomplish so much through boycotts and we can only cast one vote to elect Christian leaders.  As Christians, we have much more control over how we invest in the Kingdom by pouring into the lives of others.  Just like we could #CastAnEternalVote many times over prior to the election, we can now #GiveAnEternalGift to countless people in our circles of influence before Christmas Day.

Don’t be fooled by slick advertising into wanton consumerism under the guise of generosity.  Going into debt and enduring bedlam at the local mall for the sake of giving temporal gifts that may never see the light of day is not God’s plan for Christmas – or Thanksgiving.  Instead, Jesus wants us to “go and make disciples”, giving the gift that will never perish.

It’s Your Turn

Family can be the toughest mission field.  Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (Mark 6:4)  But that’s where each of us is called to live out the Great Commission over the next few days.  Prepare yourself to model Prayer, Care and Share even with your toughest audience.  Maybe read or share George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s inspiring and revealing words about Thanksgiving with them – I know I will.

#GiveAnEternalGift over Thanksgiving by:

  • Performing an act of kindness for a family member and watch it open the door to sharing the gospel.
  • Posting a pic and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
  • Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

 

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