In 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from Europe on the Mayflower and landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. They came to escape the persecution that was brought against them by the religious institutions in Europe. It took months to cross the Atlantic Ocean in their tiny ship, but they finally arrived. They had prepared as best they could and hoped they had brought with them all they needed to survive in this new land. This included tools to build shelters and plows to turn up the land. There were seeds to plant new crops and personal skills to do all that had to be done. Most of all they brought the very thing that sent them on this journey, and that was their Christian faith.
Even before setting foot on the soil of this new land, they drew up the first document that would establish not just the foundation of their colony, but it would establish the spiritual tone for the entire nation. This simple, handwritten statement, came to be known as the Mayflower Compact. It was a clear statement of their faith and their agreement to live by one guiding principle; they would all live in harmony and in a way that helped each other, honored all men and most of all honored God. Had they, and succeeding generations, been able to live up to this lofty goal, what a different nation we would be today.
Fast forward 169 years and our first President, General George Washington, made a Thanksgiving Proclamation. He declared November 26, 1789 to be a national day of Thanksgiving. It would be held to commemorate the Pilgrims landing, the spiritual truth behind their success, and most of all to thank God for His guidance in establishing and preserving this new nation. Fast forward 74 more years, to October 3, 1863, and we encounter another of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. On this date he also set forth a specific day, the last Thursday of November, to be “a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise”. In his proclimation, given in the middle of the bloodiest conflicts of the Civil War, Lincoln stated the following:
“…No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gift of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless, remembered mercy. It 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. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens 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…. fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony tranquility and Union”.
On this Thanksgiving Day may we also remember Who made this nation great, why we have survived and what must happen if we are to once again flourish. Our strength has not been established by own our skills, our imperfect laws, our flawed form of government or our national vision. While these things are beneficial, they have never been what made America a beacon of light, strength and vibrancy. The Pilgrims, our founding Fathers and past presidents all knew and agree that the source was not of our own making. It was and always will be based upon humility, hard, honest work, and most of all, the help, grace and mercy of Almighty God.
As our nation and families gather around the Thanksgiving table today, may we return to that Source Who gave us so much to be thankful for. May God continue to bless this nation as we repent and return to Him! God Bless America! Happy Thanksgiving and remember… in God we still trust!
Bill & Esther Emmons