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The Substance of Our Thanksgiving

Beginning Tuesday afternoon the Fellows begin their Thanksgiving break over the next 5 days. Like most, many will be traveling to visit family and or doing some form of ‘Friendsgiving’. Having an international Fellow has helped add an additional layer of thoughtfulness, purpose, and appreciate for this unique holiday. And while many of us may be vaguely familiar with the origins of how Thanksgiving came to be with the Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together, the legacy and desire for a formal celebration of this Thanksgiving in the American spirit continued.


It was not until 1863, in the midst of the American Civil War, that Thanksgiving was giving an official place in our calendar – the last Thursday of November, to be set aside as a day of reflection and thanksgiving. And why this day, you may ask? Well, I don’t know – sorry.


However, President Lincoln was urged by a newspaper editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, to select a date for a national holiday. President Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Thanksgiving, explaining the purpose of this holiday for the nation. In this proclamation, he addresses the Civil War, but he also recognizes the gracious gifts from the “Most High God”. There was certainly a God-ward facing posture in the President of the United States as he understood that, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change” (James 1:17).


We live in a world that values the practice of thankfulness – a conviction shared by religious and nonreligious alike as a way for encouraging greater mental health and perspective. However, I urge you not to stop there:


1) Recognize that you have a Personal Author who provides all good gifts for which we are to be thankful for (they do not just magically appear)


2) Acknowledge your sin before this God – because he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex 34:6-7)


3) Give praise to God for his creation, his gifts, his mercy, his Son, and eternal life that he extends


It’s the history and spirit of others working together that provides us the legacy of coming together. It’s the people we love and care about that provides reasons for coming together to celebrate. And it’s the Lord who abundantly provides, revives our spirits, and provides is a true reason for thanks (Psalm 100).

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