In celebration of the signing of the Constitution, both houses of Congress asked President Washington to issue a proclamation of thanksgiving in 1789. In that proclamation Washington referred to God as “that great and glorious Being,” “the beneficent Author of all things good,” “the great Lord and Ruler of nations,” and twice as “Almighty God,” concluding with “our Lord.”

President Madison issued a proclamation in 1815 following the end of the War of 1812.

Sarah Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” a magazine editor, began writing editorials asking that the United States schedule a national day of thanksgiving. By 1863 she convinced President Lincoln to declare it a national holiday.

In 1943 Congress issued a joint resolution declaring Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of November every year.

This is no time to have a moratorium of giving thanks, or to nullify it. Yet, there are those who try. The National Association for the Education of Young Children, consisting of thousands of preschool and elementary teachers, has published an “Anti-bias Curriculum” attacking the holiday. They encourage that instead of giving thanks, focus should be put on the plight of Native Americans, what is fair and unfair, what hurts their feelings. That is good to do, but not at the expense of giving thanks.

Sure, there are a lot of difficulties facing individuals and our nation. There always have been and always will be. Giving thanks in times of difficulty is strengthening for the person doing it. In one of the most difficult times in ancient Israel, the prophet Nehemiah (8:10) wrote: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” How strong are you? Hanging in my garage is a plaque on which a college student had that etched for me. It is the last thing I see before going out to face the day.

Our reasons to give thanks are numerous. The condition of things is not the reason for giving or not giving thanks, the internal conditions of the heart is that determinant. Gratitude is heartfelt memories. It is the parent of all virtues. The heartfelt memories of some seem to be suffering from a form of spiritual Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately it is one of the virtues that have been eroded from our culture.

There are various reasons some people rarely engage in giving thanks. Some don’t because they dispute the existence of the God referred to by Washington. When we realize who God is and what He is like, we delight to thank Him. Question: To whom do these people express thanks when they feel thankful? That brings up another reason. Some people never feel they are getting all they deserve even when they are. They are ingrates by nature. To them, more is better, but more is never good enough.

Outside London there is a small church, the dedication plaque of which makes a statement to which we should all aspire. It states:

“In the year 1635, when all things sacred throughout the nation were either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley Baronet founded this church whose singular praise is to have done the best of things in the worse times and hoped them in the most calamitous.”

If you don’t have a thankful heart, there is no external law that can compel you to give thanks.

If you have a thankful heart, there is no external law that can constrain you from giving thanks.

What kind of heart have you?

The Rev. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.


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