- The “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.
- The observance of a “national day of prayer, humiliation, and thanksgiving” was celebrated collectively after a proclamation by President George Washington in 1789.
- Thanksgiving Day became a federal holiday in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Today we debate whether God should even be mentioned in the public square. Looking at the proclamations of both Presidents Washington and Lincoln, it seems to me that Thanksgiving was intended to be a day to humble ourselves before God as a nation.
A recent ABC poll shows that 13% of Americans claim to be non-believers. That in no way implies that the remaining 87% are all Christians, but it does acknowledge that most Americans believe there is a God, with the vast majority identifying as Christian.
I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving as being a traditional Christian holiday but the truth is, there are people who don’t believe in God. While I can’t imagine keeping the day without a time of prayer and thanks—maybe non-believers are just thankful for good luck.
Critics of Christianity are becoming more vocal these days and part of the increase is due to perception. Vocal non-believers who despise Christianity commonly accuse Christians of being either bigots or brainwashed, and less intelligent than their free-thinking non-believing counterparts. They’re not the majority, but they are very loud.
Needless to say, when a Christian does something that’s not Christ-like, the angry non-believing crowd calls him/her out as being just another religious hypocrite. Believe me, there are plenty of hypocrites occupying the seats within our churches, just as there are plenty of atheists who are hypocrites about moral realism—without God there really are no objective moral facts.
However, pressure from non-believers isn’t the sole reason God’s authority over our nation is being challenged today. Our weak commitment, loose interpretations, and poor witness along with a small faction of loud angry Christians may simply make following God look undesirable.
For me, it seems that Thanksgiving should be the time to demonstrate my humility before God, not to puff up and argue the public square debate. Just living a Christ-like life of compassion and humbleness would go a long way toward changing the negative perceptions championed by the angry non-believing crowd.
But I need to be more than a once a year example. I should be living every day in a manner that not only supports the gospel, but also demonstrates that I actually believe it.
Instead of material possessions, this Thanksgiving I choose to focus on the some intangible blessings.
- I’m thankful for having “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.”
- I’m thankful for being able to trust God at his word.
- I’m thankful for not harboring bitterness against those who hate me because of my beliefs. But in believing what I do, I can’t help but be concerned for them—or I truly would be a hypocrite.
May your hearts be blessed this Thanksgiving.
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