Summary: The message is intended to help us gain a thankful heart and express it to God in everyplace we might find ourselves.
THE PLACE OF THANKSGIVING
A. Thanksgiving Day is a distinctive holiday. It doesn’t commemorate a battle or anyone’s birthday or anniversary. It is simply a day set aside to express our nation’s thanks to our nation’s God.
1. In 1789, George Washington made the first public Thanksgiving proclimation. It said in part:
2. "By the President of the United States of America. A proclamation: Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, & humbly to implore His protection & favor, - and
3. "Whereas, Both Houses of Congress" (Did you hear that, "Both Houses of Congress?") "have by their joint committee requested me `to recommend to the people of the United States a day of Public Thanksgiving & Prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God...’
4. "Now, Therefore I do recommend & assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great & glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. . ."
B. Following this bold tradition President Bush made the following proclamation concerning thanksgiving on November 21, 2008:
Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather together and express gratitude for all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives. We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God.
Every Thanksgiving, we remember the story of the Pilgrims who came to America in search of religious freedom and a better life. Having arrived in the New World, these early settlers gave thanks to the Author of Life for granting them safe passage to this abundant land and protecting them through a bitter winter. Our Nation’s first President, George Washington, stated in the first Thanksgiving proclamation that "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor." While in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, asking God to heal our wounds and restore our country.
Today, as we look back on the beginnings of our democracy, Americans recall that we live in a land of many blessings where every person has the right to live, work, and worship in freedom. Our Nation is especially thankful for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who protect these rights while setting aside their own comfort and safety. Their courage keeps us free, their sacrifice makes us grateful, and their character makes us proud. Especially during the holidays, our whole country keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Americans are also mindful of the need to share our gifts with others, and our Nation is moved to compassionate action. We pay tribute to all caring citizens who reach out a helping hand and serve a cause larger than themselves.