Tuesday, November 20, 2012

a national day of communion

It's not about the turkey. It's not about the pie. It's not about football. It's not about kicking off the Christmas season. It's not about the gathering. It's not even about family or general thankfulness. When Abraham Lincoln established a national day of thanksgiving it was about giving our attention and gratitude to a God that had sovereignly guided and protected our nation through perilous times. It was really a national act of communion. Just as Christ followers observe communion as an opportunity to thank Jesus for his life saving work on the cross, and then simultaneously repent of transgression; so thanksgiving should be a day of gratitude to our Savior and repentance of our forgetfulness as a nation. The idea of thanksgiving is about turning our focus to God and his sovereign hand in our lives, not just as individuals but as a nation. It should be a day of prayer and repenting as much as it is a day of praise. And it should be focused on the great giver of gifts. Jesus' own brother James reminds me of how easily we forget who the blessings come from: "Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters, all good giving and every generous gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation nor the slightest hint of change." (James 1:16-17)

This week it seems appropriate to go back to our roots, to read again what Abraham Lincoln declared from the beginning:

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...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.
May your Thanksgiving be marked by intentional gratitude to the maker of heaven and earth, who has blessed us despite our forgetfulness, despite our sinfulness, despite our complacency. And may
we all take time to turn back, to pray, to repent, and to acknowledge the great giver of gifts who has graciously, generously, and without discrimination lavished his love on us.

1 comment:

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