By Tom Barrett (12/02/03)
Thanksgiving is a national holiday. But long before it was recognized as such by President Lincoln, Americans understood clearly that it was a special time for a Christian nation to set aside time to thank their Heavenly Father for His many blessings.
103 Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower on the shores of Cape Cod in November, 1620. 51 of them died that first terrible winter. Yet even in the face of such great loss, they set aside a day for prayer and Thanksgiving after their first harvest. Although it was not recognized as such at the time, this was the beginning of the yearly Thanksgiving celebration.
Over the years Americans celebrated Thanksgiving informally without benefit of any governmental proclamation. After all, God’s children have never needed the approval of government to offer thanks to Him.
In 1817 the State of New York adopted Thanksgiving as an official holiday. Many other states followed suit, until in 1863 Abraham Lincoln appointed a national day of Thanksgiving. Since then, every President has issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation for the fourth Thursday in November. These proclamations, even when uttered by the most immoral of presidents, always mention gratitude to God. This is because they know that most Americans still acknowledge that God is the source of every good thing we receive.
If you would like to know what God thinks about all this, look at I Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you.” In Philippians 4:6 the Apostle Paul says, “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”