It was the fall of 1863.
Only 87 years into the American experiment, the country was engaged in a great civil war. Ideologies had clashed. Now bullets were flying.
By Oct. 3, 1863, more than 347,000 soldiers had died.
But on that day, President Lincoln issued a proclamation setting the day for a national Thanksgiving celebration.
In the proclamation, Lincoln acknowledged the blessings the country enjoyed even in the midst of the civil war “of unequalled magnitude and severity.” He gave honor to the Most High God for these blessings.
“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,” Lincoln advised.
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … 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, tranquillity and Union.”
(God answered Lincoln’s prayer for Union on April 9, 1965, when General Lee surrendered to General Grant, but not before a total of 620,000 had died.)
And now here we are in the fall of 2020.
Now 244 years into the American experiment, the country is again divided in a way Lincoln could have never envisioned — we’re fighting each other due, in part, to a virus.
Instead of our leaders calling us to humble ourselves before God, to thank him for his many blessings and to implore him to heal and restore the nation, our leaders are telling us to cancel Thanksgiving!
But if ever there is a time for us to confess our national perverseness and disobedience, it is now.
If there is ever a year when we need to gather our families and be grateful, it is this year.
In 2020, let’s give thanks.
No matter what.