Today is Thanksgiving Day. I have so much to be thankful for today. Beyond the standard platitudes I offer up on this day of thankfulness, today I feel particularly grateful. We are not in the hospital. Our family, even the entire extended Vincent clan, is together. It’s a beautiful day filled with unfathomable blessings. But I know it is not so for everyone on this day. I know many, even those close to me, are still in the hospital or are without family or have experienced losses emotionally, materially, and physically.
This year, understanding Thanksgiving became more important. I found this from the History Channel about Thanksgiving’s proud history:
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
There is so much to unpack in those three little sentences, but this really struck me, the national day of Thanksgiving was created in the midst of war. The first national Thanksgiving occurred in 1863 at a time when thousands of men were dying, families shattered, and the very fabric of our country hung in tatters. I’m actually reading about Lincoln right now in Team of Rivals but I hadn’t gotten to 1863. Even with a major in history and political science from undergrad, I somehow missed this fact. Then I read Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from 1863, and reread it, and reread it:
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. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 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. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him 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, tranquillity and Union.
There are seasons of plenty and there are seasons of war. As Lincoln recognized, sometimes those seasons can even occur simultaneously. I do not know if you are in a season of war or of plenty or of both. I do know that where ever you are today, God is good. Thankfulness takes more effort on some days than on others. But if a country in the midst of the greatest internal strife it has ever seen could declare a national day of Thanksgiving, then can’t we find thankfulness in our spirit today?
I leave you with the beautiful words of Ann Voskamp from her post yesterday about times when Thanksgiving is hard:
We won’t stop confessing He is good and we won’t stop thanking Him for grace and we won’t stop holding out our hands — and taking His hand. We won’t stop believing that “God is good” is not some trite quip for the good days but a radical defiant cry for the terrible days. That “God is good” is not a stale one-liner when all’s happy but a saving lifeline when all’s hard. And we will keep giving thanks because giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.
From our home to yours, Happy Thanksgiving 2012.