Since I’m sure that President Obama won’t be quoting any of the following speech today in his dishwater thin mumbling of carefully generalized and non-specific thanks for the cameras, I wanted to share what our nation’s first president had to say on the occasion of his declaring our nation’s first day of national remembrance and thanks:
George Washington, October 3, 1789:
“Whereas 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.’
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, Who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
Yes, the family meal and the parades and the gathering of family and friends are indeed fun — I’m looking forward to the day. In fact, my stepson will be marching in the Chicago Parade with the OPHS Marching Band. Later tonight, we’ll take all the kids and some hot chocolate out into the front yard and we’ll flip the switch on the Christmas lights in our yard before coming in to watch a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with the kids.
But, as my likeminded friends and family will likely agree, today isn’t ultimately about any of those things, is it? Our nation did not begin setting aside a day of thanks and remembrance so that Michaels and Target and Wal-Mart (and…) could offer door-busting discounts and other rewards for rampant consumption on Christmas deals-and-steals right after the pie and coffee have been cleared way, or so that we would have a chance to experience the dubious wonders of the deep-fried turkey, or watch pop singers lip sync blurbs from their latest singles from the front of a corporately-sponsored float.
Thanksgiving is a day to count blessings, and to remember from whom those blessings have come. As President Washington made it clear, over and over again, blessings don’t come from luck or from the universe or from some other unnamed force…they don’t come as a result of our own empowerment or efforts. Blessings flow from Almighty God and no other. Today is a day to give Providence its proper name, and to speak it often and with gratitude and love and thanksgiving and joy.
Praying that your day would be filled with remembrance of how Almighty God has worked in your lives this past year, and that you have many many blessings to count and to lay before His feet with thanks. Among those blessings, I pray that today you will have good and abundant food to fill your belly, many friends and family gathered around the table to fill your ears with the sound of laughter, and a year of generous provision in both joy and sorrow to look back on and to fill your minds with grateful remembrance –
To Him be all the glory and honor and thanks.