In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each of these states celebrated it on a different day, however, the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians.
At the height of the Civil War in 1863, Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.
So, for the last 155 years, America has officially celebrated Thanksgiving. And, of course, the Pilgrims first celebrated a meal of thanksgiving in 1621. We should certainly continue to give God thanks for His blessings every year on the fourth Thursday of November. But, how do we give thanks every day? Let me mention a couple of things:
1. Remember a thankful heart is a CHOICE we make.
As has been said, gratitude is an attitude. There is a strong connection between THANKING and THINKING. We’ve got a choice…we can count our blessings, or we can complain about our burdens. We need to make an intentional, conscious effort to think about all we have to be thankful for. In other words, in order to be thankful, we need to be “thinkful.” Take some time to think about how God has blessed you. List the blessings you have received: spiritual, personal, family, relationship, financial, and material blessings.
2. Remember we must make a CHOICE to be CONTENT.
Fight against the two great enemies of a thankful heart:
Taking our blessings for granted. As Emerson once said that if the stars came out only once a year everyone would stay up all night to behold them.
Discontentment with what we already have. Enjoy what you already have rather than complaining about what you don’t have. The “desire to acquire” is a great thief of true thankfulness. In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul stated that he had “learned the secret of being content.”
3. Remember we must make a CHOICE to be CONTENT in all CIRCUMSTANCES.
Paul commanded us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). This does not mean that all of your circumstances are good; but you can give thanks in all circumstances. You can find something to be thankful for. And remember that God has a purpose in your problems, and that He can turn something bad into something good for you (Romans 8:28).
The great Bible commentator, Matthew Henry was robbed by some thieves who stole his wallet. After that experience, Henry wrote the following in his diary: “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my wallet, they did not take my life; third, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”
Now, that’s perspective. We truly have been blessed by God. Let’s take the time every day to express our thanks to God. He has been so good! Happy Thanksgiving!