On Thanksgiving Day some churches have a formal reading of a presidential decree. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln made such proclamations. But Lincoln’s is always the most impressive, for it was proclaimed during the Civil War, on October 3, 1863. Lincoln set the precedent and chose the date for an annual National Thanksgiving Day. Before that year, the date was set by individual states. Lincoln’s proclamation begins simply:
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.
Lincoln is grateful that even in the horrors of war,
“…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.”
Lincoln’s proclamation manifests his belief that the nation was suffering civil war in punishment for its sins. At the same time, he still recognizes how God has shown his tender mercies even during that time of national suffering.
The question for us is whether we can really see the providence of God in the events of our national life that have taken place in this year 2012.
It is one thing to see God’s gracious gifts of a good harvest (a custom found in many cultures around the work). But Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863 even discerned how God’s mercy was extended even in the scourge of Civil War. How good are we at recognizing and thanking God?