In a few days we who are privileged to live in the United States of America will once again celebrate that most enjoyable and characteristically American of holidays: Thanksgiving Day. With its emphasis on family, good food and warmth, it provides a wonderful occasion as winter sets in, and a time to give thanks for the blessings this nation has received.
It was the first president, George Washington, who in October of 1789 signed the first decree. He wrote:
“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 signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’”
How meaningful that proclamation was! And how overtly “religious” were the first declarations of the early presidents of the United States, as they unashamedly acknowledged the favor and providential hand of the Creator in bringing peoples to these shores and endowing them with religious freedoms and physical blessings.
Yet today, the meaning of Thanksgiving seems to be lost on many. It’s often no more than “turkey day,” a day for overeating and for watching football. All too often the original meaning of the day is conspicuously absent. It is, of course, an occasion to thank Almighty God for the good He has showered on this nation, prosperous and free.
To make matters worse, Thanksgiving Day is seen by many as the trigger for an ugly frenzy of unbridled consumerism, greed and grab. The day-after-Thanksgiving “shopping stampedes” are ugly and reflect poorly on our priorities. At times, they have resulted in fights, and even deaths, as crazed shoppers fight for a place in line to grab discounted merchandise on “Black Friday.”
In 2008, a Long Island, New York, Walmart employee was trampled to death in just such a stampede; in 2010, a Toys for Tots volunteer in Georgia was stabbed by a shoplifter; and last year, Black Friday brought the use of pepper spray to control a crazed crowd of shoppers at a Porter Ranch, California, Walmart, causing a reported 20 injuries. The motive? Heavily discounted Xbox 360 video games!
How sad to have forgotten the virtues enunciated by 16th president Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863 emphasized gratitude, humility, and reverence in his famous proclamation. “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”
That was almost 150 years ago. If it was true then that the people of this nation had forgotten God, is it not even more true now? And is it possible that Almighty God, the One who gave such bounty and blessing to the United States, is now in the process of removing that blessing?
If so, ought we not to rededicate ourselves and humbly acknowledge Him this Thanksgiving festival, and ask that in His mercy and kindness He would not withdraw those blessings from us?
May you have a good—and meaningful—Day of Thanksgiving!
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Ralph Levy.