"As we have grown and prospered in material things, so also should we progress in moral and spiritual things. We are a God-fearing people who should set ourselves against evil and strive for righteousness in living, and observing the Golden Rule we should from our abundance help and serve those less fortunately placed. We should bow in gratitude to God for His many favors.”
President Calvin Coolidge said these words in 1925.
In the proceeding year, President Coolidge was the first president to have his inauguration broadcast over the radio.
In that year, the first public demonstration of what would become TV happened.
Famous people like the baseball player Yogi Berra, civil rights activist Malcom X, and first lady Barbara Bush were born.
The world had come out of the war to end all wars only a few years prior.
The world was changing, the pace of life was hurrying along at speeds no one could imagine.
Companies like the Chrysler Cooperation were founded.
And the first weekly broadcast of the Grand Old Opry began.
So many things were looking up for America when Coolidge gave his Thanksgiving proclamation.
Yet, in only a few years the stock market crashed, proceeding the Great Depression.
From there, another Word War engulfed our nation.
Did Coolidge’s words about bowing in gratitude to God for his many favors no longer ring true? Because the United States was in a time of desperation, was it then that we retract our giving thanks?
Two Presidents later, then sitting president FDR said this in 1942:
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.
The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the Nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.
In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our Nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.
It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy Protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven."
Tomorrow is a very America holiday. Not because it’s a feast, other countries and people’s have feasts. No, Thanksgiving has always rested, not on the best of times, but understanding the best we have even in the worst of times.
From the pilgrims who almost lost their lives, making a home in a new land. To President Lincoln, at the hight of the civil war declaring a national day of Thanksgiving.
It’s recognizing that there is a God in heaven who cares for his creation. So much so, that even when his creation rebels against him, he still desires the best for them. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of the strife, pain and sorrow in this world comes from our own actions. Our own actions that put us at the center, and so, cause a lot of problems. We want things our way, we are doing, what God calls sin. And because of that sin, we are separated from God and the blessing of a full relationship with him. Not just in this life, but also in the life to come. A separation that isn’t merely by location, but in full knowledge that all the peace, the joy, the acceptance, and love we ever felt will be gone. And we will be living a second death. But God loves and cares for us too much to leave us to that fate, so he sends Jesus to die on a cross. That death was to pay for the consequence of our sin. Jesus died for our rebellion. And when he was raised to new life, everlasting life was now available to anyone who would accept his offer. And when we accept what Jesus has done for us, we can return to the blessings he has for us. Which start now and go into eternity.
If you have never accepted Jesus’ work on your behalf, to bring you out of sin’s death and into eternal life, don’t let another Thanksgiving meal pass you by without Jesus. Tonight, if you haven't accepted Jesus as your Savior, I want to talk with you after our time here, about what that means.
Thanksgiving can too easily focus on what we have done, but the heart of it is what God has done for us.
If we can recapture this understanding of Thanksgiving, the storms of life will never topple us, because we will not be found in our own strength, but in the strength of the God who loves us.
Before we pray, I want to leave you with these words, from the great philosopher and theologian Charlie Brown, “What if, today, we were grateful for everything?”
Let’s pray the words of Thomas Jefferson,
“Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”