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Friends,

Americans associate the custom of a special day of thanksgiving to the Pilgrims and their struggles; after nearly starving, they survived with the help of the Indians, and a tradition of a harvest celebration of thanksgiving began.  At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, a remarkably “Christian” statement, which undoubtedly embarrasses those who want to secularize our history.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued another proclamation, as have many Presidents through our historythe latest is by George W. Bush.

As a Christian, I am amazed at the clarity of faith in statements by our forefathers:

“The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”—George Washington 

 

“(I)t 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.”—George Washington

 

“It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshiping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.”—John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776) [Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 221.]

 

“It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.”—James Madison (A Memorial and
Remonstrance, 1785)

 

“All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?”—Benjamin Franklin

 

“The reformation was preceded by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.”—Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776)

Having observed all that, genuinely, sincerely giving thanks to God isn’t easy.  Oh, saying the words is easy enough, and we should say them, regardless of how we may be feeling.  They ought to be words spoken
to God recognizing that God is the source of life, of beauty, of the abundance of good things we enjoy, of His providential care, of our individual uniqueness and capabilities, and of all good things.  For us Americans, at this season when we have reason to consider the bounty of the fields and the abundance of blessings we enjoy, not the least freedom, we should make every effort not to take what we have for granted, for many in the world do not have the pleasure of what we have here.  In addition, as we continue to recognize the threat those very blessings face from radicals abroad and in our own land, as our young men and women risk their lives to preserve those blessings, we have much to say to God in humility and gratitude. Our greatest shame is to think and speak as those who lack rather than those who have so much.  Even our poorest and least privileged have considerably more than many in the rest of the world.  I am shamed by stories of believers in the Bible and in other times and places, living with almost nothing, still gave God thanks.  For those who believe in eternity, the struggles, hardships, persecutions, and suffering are temporary and insignificant next to Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf at Calvary.  Many who are poor find that truth easier to embrace than we who have so much.

For all that I love old hymns and classical anthems, no lyric states the case better than this old gospel song, “Count Your Blessings:”

1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high

4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

I don’t find giving thanks always to come easily.  I fall into the trap of complaining about what I lack rather than appreciating what I have.  I neglect my gratitude with God, and I fail to often to express my appreciation to those I love and who have loved and cared for me.  Life often seems, after young has passed somewhat, to be a slow deteriorating progression toward death; indeed, because of sin, we live under such a curse.  Yet, Paul, in Romans 8:18-27, writes that we, along with the entire creation, wait for the consummation of God’s plan:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory
that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation
for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to
frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected
it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to
decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth
right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have
the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our
adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought
to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words
cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit
intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

 This tells us that, despite the struggles, the future is worth waiting for.  The danger of ingratitude can endanger that blessed future, it would seem, based on what Paul wrote earlier in the same epistle (Romans 1:21-22):  “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.   Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”  God save us from becoming fools by our own ingratitude!

    *****
I love science fiction and fantasy, I read Christian books and books relating to the issues of the day, but I also enjoy reading classics, some times, usually when I have a student reading one.  I read Great Gatsby, years ago, and reading it again has been an unexpected pleasure.

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