The early history of Thanksgiving in America is hard to pin down. It was President Abraham Lincoln who declared a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863. Our nation was in the midst of the Civil War. This was Lincoln’s way of humbling our nation before God and giving thanks for all the blessings bestowed upon this torn land. President Franklin Roosevelt helped by defining the day as the fourth Thursday of November in 1941. Again, our nation was on the verge of a horrible war, and the president was seeking God’s favor.
Problem: Too often, we do not recognize just how much for which we have to be thankful. There are many who have huge challenges. Some of you reading this have lost jobs or have suffered illness, or someone close to you has, and the list of bad things could go on for a long time. You and I have a choice to make. We can dwell on all the bad or decide to be thankful for the blessings that always outweigh the challenges.
If you are having some trouble doing this, let me recommend reading some psalms. Psalms 136, 146, 148 and 150 are just a few that will help you get in the mood of thanksgiving. Of all the psalms, Psalm 100 is listed as “A psalm for giving thanks,” so be sure to read it. Sit down with a piece of paper or at your computer and make a list of your blessings.
Some of you will remember the hymn, “Count your many blessings.” Well, try it. Start with those around you who love you and who you have to love. Need more motivation? Look at pictures of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy. None of this discounts the real trials you may have, but please look beyond them. President Lincoln did in 1863, and something tells me he had a lot on his mind.
While I have you reading this, join me in not shopping on Thanksgiving. There are a couple of days a year that I think people should have off to spend time with their families. Two of them are Thanksgiving and Christmas. If no one goes shopping, then next year they would change the plan. Hey, remember, this is supposed to be a sermon, so there you go.
Take care out there, neighbors. Look me up if you need some prayer or help in being thankful. Enjoy the day!
The Rev. Ken Hasekamp is pastor of Adventure Christian Fellowship. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.