Let’s face it – 2020 has been a strange year.
But God was not surprised by all the events that have happened.
We have finished our four-week countdown to Thanksgiving.
Thanks to all who have joined this journey – I trust this has been a meaningful process to prepare your heart for today (and every day).
1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;(Psalm 95:1-6, English Standard Version)
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
As we have taken these daily stops over the past month, we realize we have much to be thankful for.
As I read stories of the history of Thanksgiving, I see many similarities to our current world.
In 1621, the English pilgrims that had settled the Plymouth colony (in what we now call Massachusetts) gathered together with the Native Americans living in the area and held the first harvest feast, expressing thanks to God and gratitude for each other.
Of the 100 or so pilgrims that sailed on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth the previous autumn, only 50 had survived. Harsh conditions and disease had taken many lives, including about 78 percent of the women that had arrived on the Mayflower.
Life was hard, and yet, both the pilgrims and the Native Americans paused not to complain, but to give God thanks for surviving the year, and for the harvest that would sustain then through the winter and to the next year. They also thanked God for each other – the Native Americans taught the pilgrims what to eat and how to grow crops, and the pilgrims shared their technology with the Native Americans. Life was better because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of each others’ help.
Fast forward 242 years later…
In 1863, in the middle of the US civil war, in an attempt to heal a divided nation, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a day of Thanksgiving.
Here’s the proclamation that we now call Thanksgiving:
Washington, D.C.(Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, 1863)
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
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. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, 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. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. 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 one 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.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
Blessings, civil war between opposing parties, death, sin – all as current today as in 1863. All reasons to pause and remember that despite our mess, we need to stop and thank God for His goodness and mercy toward us.
May Lincoln’s proclamation be our prayer today, 157 years later.
Here’s another paraphrase of today’s text – may it encourage you:
1-2 Come, let’s shout praises to God,(Psalm 95:1-7, The Message Translation)
raise the roof for the Rock who saved us!
Let’s march into his presence singing praises,
lifting the rafters with our hymns!
3-5 And why? Because God is the best,
High King over all the gods.
In one hand he holds deep caves and caverns,
in the other hand grasps the high mountains.
He made Ocean—he owns it!
His hands sculpted Earth!
6-7 So come, let us worship: bow before him,
on your knees before God, who made us!
Oh yes, he’s our God,
and we’re the people he pastures, the flock he feeds.
Lord, thank You for all the goodness we know and experience – all of it comes from Your hand, not our own.
Lord, life is a mess, and it’s easy to lose hope and forget Your kindness and provision. But when we pause, we see Your gracious hand upon us and Your mercy extended to us.
Forgive us, Lord, for our sins as a nation – for seeking our individual desires over the good of the nation. May we extend love and generosity to our neighbors in need, and show Your kindness and grace to those who are different from us.
Lord, we pray that the heart of our nation and its people to be turned back to You, and come into Your presence with thanksgiving. Lord, as we come back to You, we ask You to heal our land.
Today we pause and remember Your goodness, so undeserved.
Thank You, Lord.
Giving thanks to God,