Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Across the country thousands of children have spent the past week making paper turkeys, belt buckle hats and trying their best to understand how fish would make corn grow any easier (I was never quit able to crack that one myself when I was younger). However, the Thanksgiving story being echoed around our nation’s elementary schools this time of year is mostly fabricated. The real story, though, is better, truer and far more relevant to the current climate in today’s United States.
On October 20, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln issues his 118th proclamation. On that day the 54-year-old statesman was over four years into a Civil War that threatened to tear his country apart. Even though most of the nation did not particularly feel like celebrating at that time, Lincoln was desperate for anything that might unite his fractured people. And so, the most powerful man in America spoke these words to his embattled countrymen,
“…I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.”
The narrative of pilgrims, Indians and a shared feast formed around this new holiday as the years went by, but its true origin is that of a grieved politician’s appeal for unity and perspective.
Lincoln hoped that by taking American’s minds off of their political differences and diverting their anger into a feeling of shared thankfulness he could hasten the end of the war. This may be an old story, but that central notion is one that should ring immeasurably true to the present day citizens of the United States, especially for those that call themselves Christians.
Consider these words from another man that longed to see a divided people come together:
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” - 1 Corinthians 1:10
Paul here may be writing to a specific church that existed over a thousand years ago, but his message is the same as Lincoln’s and one that Christian’s in 2016 should acknowledge: seeking unity is better than stirring controversy.
Tomorrow, we will move into a day of thanks even as we exit one of the most politically divisive elections in recent memory. As we do so let us remember that our true citizenship lies in heaven and our true provision comes from the king on that throne, not from any earthly official.
Armed with that confidence let’s put aside any anger, disappointment or malice we might be feeling and instead choose to embrace our mission of encouraging thankfulness, seeking unity and representing our true Kingdom wherever we can.