On behalf of our entire staff at Hot Air, may our readers have a happy and joyous Thanksgiving holiday. Most of you will spend the day with family and/or friends; some of you will spend this day as you do others — serving our nation far from home, or working in our communities to provide critical services that never have a day off. I spent almost twenty years working in alarm response call centers, and know what it’s like to have to miss a family get together on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our prayers will be with all of those who for one reason or another cannot celebrate the holiday as wished.
Typically, we’d write about those blessings for which we have special gratitude on Thanksgiving Day. Today, though, I’d like to write about gratitude itself and for whom we feel it. Often in American culture, we forget the religious underpinnings of these cultural events, and Thanksgiving is not immune to that trend. We offer a generalized gratitude, or thank those around us, which is never a bad idea but is not the historical reason for this holiday.
George Washington knew better. In his first Thanksgiving proclamation — indeed, the first given by an American President under the Constitution — Washington repeatedly addressed his and the nation’s gratitude to God for His blessings on the new nation:
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 to 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 and 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 26th day 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 signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course 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 enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately 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 stations, 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, discreetly 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.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
So how shall we spend this day — apart from the great customs of the holiday, such as the feasting, the football, and the family and friends? Let me leave you with this wisdom from Colossians 3:12-17, emphases mine:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, 13forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And over all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I wish you all a truly blessed Thanksgiving.