In the blink of an eye, it will be time to celebrate Thanksgiving. My family knows that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Truth be told, I treat every day the same, filled with God’s mercy, grace, and opportunities to share Christ’s beautiful salvation. But, for this one day each year, I feel a vitality, a specialness in the air that I find hard to capture into words.
The Creation of Our Thanksgiving Holiday
Just two years after the US Consitution was signed into law, we were blessed with the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving in America has thwarted nearly every attempt to commercialize it. Yes, the NFL has taken advantage of this merchandising vacuum, as has “Black Friday.” But taken on the whole, our day to give thanks still stands nearly as it has since its inauguration in 1789.
“On September 28, 1789, just before leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a ”Day of Publick Thanksgivin“ – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution.”The Center for Legislative Archives
The implications of this official proclamation are wonderful. First, it is a day for unity, something our nation needs. This special day is for the public to join together. It is a day for “we the people.” The word “we” define a people group that shares at least one common attribute. For us, it is the United States of America. Americans are the collective “we the people.” (If you want to gain some first-hand insight into the issue of slavery, I’ve added a link at the bottom of this post2.
Why Thanksgiving is Special
In America’s Constitution, we find something that can be grasped, a unifying commonality covered today in a slurry of animosity and division. It is “we the people.” This shared agreement is about as rare as hens’ teeth. But there it is, right in front of all of us.
There may be a thousand things that separate us. Our nation may seem like Humpty Dumpty, fragmented to the point of no recovery. Yet, in this holiday, we find hope. We see something of value and choose not to destroy it but to grasp our shared fate, found in our shared freedom and our shared responsibilities; our common good is an anchor, steadfast in the storms of strife and turmoil as they ravage the nations of the world.
To Whom Are We Thankful
We are Americans. We, the people, commonly and publicly share in our thankfulness. What or to whom are we thankful? This was a question that nearly upended the founding of this nation. The founders fell into one of three groups1.
The smallest group was men that had abandoned their Judeo-Christian heritage. A larger group of founders were practicing Christians, and the largest group consisted of men who retained Christian loyalties but had shifted their spiritual beliefs to Deism.
It took 116 days for the delegates of the Constitutional Convention to reach a consensus and produce a document they deemed worthy of signing; there were thirty-nine signatories out of the fifty-five delegates.
How did they find an agreement they could sign in good conscience? Their act affirms that our nation has broad enough shoulders to hold differing beliefs when bound together by the “we” of “we the people.”
God At Work
Whew. We waded into the deep end of the pool. As Christians, we know that God’s will was at work in the founding of this nation. As a nation, along with the good, we have done bad things, even horrible things. That’s not so different from our personal lives. If we believe that God forgives us, His children, when we confess, repent, and recommit our lives to Jesus, then we surely can believe that we as a nation can still do the same.
Enjoy your day off from work. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your traditions. And yes, even enjoy your football game. Still, I pray you to take time to thank Jesus for His salvation and blessings. I’ve traveled the world and can say publicly, with great confidence, “I am thankful for our America. I am thankful that I am one of we the people.”
1: The Faiths of the Founding Fathers
2: If you want to gain insight into the mindset on slavery, I recommend reading the article written by Frederick Douglass, a former slave that became an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman: WHAT SHALL BE DONE WITH THE SLAVES IF EMANCIPATED?, Douglass’ Monthly, January 1862
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