We live in a nation of discord. So it was when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on October 3, 1863. The encouragement he found then is the same encouragement available to us today.
One of the things I love to do when we sit down as a family for Thanksgiving dinner is to read Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. We live in a culture so distracted by our digital devices that we can no longer remember from where we came or why. Taking a moment to reconnect with history can do much to clear the fog and help us remember what really matters and why.
Abraham Lincoln made his Proclamation on October 3, 1863. Just as we are presently experiencing the present strife of Weinstein and Moore so was he experiencing strife, and actually of a far greater magnitude: the country was at war with itself.
The first thing Lincoln does is observe that even amidst the strife any sensible heart will see that we remain under “the watchful providence of Almighty God”:
The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. 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 even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
Another thing Lincoln does is call for penitence and mercy. These are concepts we’ve almost forgotten but how we need them today as he did then:
And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, 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.
Our greatest challenges personally and nationally are neither political, nor even cultural, but spiritual. May all who are Christians join me today in humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience. May all who are fellow citizens, Christian or otherwise, join me in reaching out in tender care to those among us who are widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers.
How would you like to stand for our country in penitence? To whom has God put on your heart today to extend mercy? Please share your comments below.
I dedicate this post to my good friend and newly bereaved widow Lida Pederson, whose dear husband Doug went home to be with the Lord this week after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
November 22, 2017.