Every day I turn on the news to protest, violence, abuse and brokenness. Angry reporters tell me the rule of law is disintegrating. Angry people seem to agree as they burn police vehicles and take to the streets. Death and destruction. Confusion. Fear.
How can I be thankful?
We celebrate Thanksgiving this year because of a persevering woman and a faithful man. The woman was Sarah Josepha Hale. She is best known for writing, “Mary had a little lamb.” That’s too bad because she was a serious writer on the slave trade. Sarah wrote, “The great error of those who would sever the Union rather than see a slave within its borders, is, that they forget the master is their brother, as well as the servant; and that the spirit which seeks to do good to all and evil to none is the only true Christian philanthropy.” Those words could apply equally today to the immigrant within our borders.
Sarah campaigned for a national Thanksgiving holiday for decades writing to five Presidents. Only New England celebrated Thanksgiving and each state celebrated at a different time in a different way. We were not a united nation. The United States were thought of in the plural – The United States are, instead of the United States is. But one man changed all that.
He was an unlikely hero. Tall, gangly, and in many respects a failure. He became the 16th President of the United States only to see the union dissolve into Civil War. His son died tragically. And in our nation’s darkest hour and his personal darkest hour, he fell to his knees and gave thanks. How can I be thankful? I can be thankful for the same reason President Lincoln was thankful.
Abraham Lincoln was a deep man of faith. He wisely said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”
Lincoln knew God’s promises. He understood that in the midst of great suffering he could still “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” I Thes. 5:16-18a. America has never experienced suffering and uncertainty more than in 1863. Lincoln mourned for his son and his nation. Yet when he read Sarah’s letter, he knew that the nation must come together and give thanks. His proclamation was great wisdom for our nation then and for today. Let’s follow the example of Sarah Hale and persevere for change. But let’s do so in recognition that we are all brothers and sisters working together in a spirit that seeks to do good to all and evil to none. And like Lincoln let us advance on our knees in an attitude of gratitude for all that our Savior has done for us. Let us be grateful for the sacrifice of men like Lincoln who gave the last full measure of his devotion to preserve a Union, unite a nation, and provide us the opportunity to make a difference without violence and bloodshed.
Please consider President Lincoln’s wise words this Thanksgiving:
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things (a list of our national blessing). 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 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, tranquility and Union.”
Amen. May we learn from President Lincoln and
Go and Do Likewise.