Ramon Arias | November 19, 2013
Here we go again, another season to celebrate Thanksgiving. How many of you really understand what Thanksgiving is all about? Do you really think that Thanksgiving is about Indians, turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, squash, baked breads mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings for a lavish dinner to be enjoyed with family and friends? Is it the only time of year for feeding the poor? Is that what Thanksgiving is all about?
Some traditions have meaning and value as long as they are kept in proper focus as originally intended; such is the case with the American tradition of Thanksgiving. This holiday is being taken totally out of focus not only in the public schools but also throughout the media and sad to say, in most churches. The true meaning of Thanksgiving is being lost, but it is not too late to come to this understand and reclaim the true significance of the tradition of Thanksgiving.
Noah Webster’s in his 1828 dictionary of the English language said the following about tradition:
“2. The delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity; the transmission of any opinions or practice from forefathers to descendants by oral communication, without written memorials. Thus children derive their vernacular language chiefly from tradition. Most of our early notions are received by tradition from our parents.
3. That which is handed down from age to age by oral communication. The Jews pay great regard to tradition in matters of religion, as do the Romanists. Protestants reject the authority of tradition in sacred things, and rely only on the written word. Traditions may be good or bad, true or false.”
A correct thanksgiving tradition began dating back beyond the pilgrims and Puritans, all the way back to thousands of years into the history of the Hebrew people. The Bible reveals what the practice of thanksgiving meant to the children of Israel. For old Israel, thanksgiving was a time of great celebration with fasting and feasting to praise God; expressed with songs and great joy. In modern Israel, some locations have this burst of joyful celebration even in the streets. Yes, the Bible has many instances of calling people for a celebration, but also for deep national soul-searching.
The Pilgrims followed, by the Puritans, upon their arrival to this continent brought with them the living hope to build communities based upon the Hebrew Scriptures; what we call the Bible. The Pilgrims saw themselves no different than Israel of old; they knew they were God’s chosen people being led by Almighty God to a Promised Land. They always acknowledged the providence of God and had no problem to bless the God of heaven who Ied them across the Atlantic Ocean and established them in this new land.
In colonial America “Thanksgiving” was celebrated in different forms. George Washington, as the first president of the republic, proclaimed a day for thanking God for all He had done by bringing the colonies through all the tremendous trials and made an official holiday.
George Washington was a disciplined student of biblical Scriptures. He had no doubt in his heart that America could only be blessed as long as it would acknowledge the only source of all blessings.
The following is his proclamation of October 3rd, 1789:
“Whereas it 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 implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the twenty-six of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that Great and Glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country, previous to their becoming a nation; for the single manifold mercies, and the favorable interposition’s of His providence, in the courage and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish Constitutions of Government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private institutions, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discretely and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us) and to bless them with good governments, peace and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science, among them and us; and generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
After thoughtful consideration of Washington’s proclamation, assess what is taking place today in America. Look what government officials have done by disregarding the historical background of this nation, how they have trampled on the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
It is also appropriate that we consider portions of Abraham Lincoln’s October 3, 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation at a time when devastation and great loss of life was leaving thousands of widows and orphans scattered throughout the land as a result of the war between the states. Lincoln recognized that in spite of this terrible situation, the nation was moving forward with growth and prosperity, he did not attribute this to the American ingenuity:
“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 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 1941, when World War II was in progress, the U.S. Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as the day for Americans to thank God. Look around you, 72 years later we have a different America, so different that what the Founding Fathers would not even recognize, nor could they have envisioned it would come to this. A nation that has destroyed most of the original foundations, that kills the most defenseless and innocent of all humans, those in the mother’s womb (over fifty six million and counting), degenerate, lawless, big government that is so close to taking away liberty and free enterprise, corruption at all levels at its worst, and the list of moral ills grows and grows. Instead of America being the model for other nations it seems that far too many of its citizens are willing to become like the rest of the nations of the world.
Our national symptoms reveal that we have very weak Christian leadership making proclamations that amount to nothing other than congratulating themselves for making them. These leaders don’t realize that they are treating the prevailing evils with kid gloves when what the nation needs is the message Lincoln acknowledged that God was dealing with us in anger for our sins.
This Thanksgiving let us acknowledge that America stands at a crossroad like never before in her history, let us humble ourselves before God and pray for the salvation of the nation lest God pours out the fullness of His wrath. Let us not forget what Thanksgiving is all about. Let us readjust our focus.