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An Exercise in Gratitude

Romans 1:21

We’re not very good at saying “Thank You,” are we?

We’re like the little boy….. On his return from a birthday party his mother queried, “Bobby, did you thank the lady for the party?”

“Well, I was going to,” he answered, “But a girl ahead of me said, ‘Thank You,’ and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn’t.”

It is interesting to note that it wasn’t until we were at war, the Civil War to be exact, that our Thanksgiving holiday was officially recognized by Congress.

It had started in the small Plymouth Colony in 1621 when the English Pilgrims feasted with members of the Wampanoag Indians who brought gifts of food as a gesture of goodwill. The custom grew in various colonies as a means of celebrating the harvest.

In 1777, over 100 years later, the continental congress proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving after the American Revolution victory at the Battle of Saratoga.

But it was twelve years later that George Washington proclaimed another national day of thanksgiving in honor of the ratification of the Constitution and requested that the congress finally make it an annual event.

They declined! It would be another 100 years and the end of a bloody civil war before President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November -Thanksgiving. The year was 1865.

It might surprise you to learn that it took still another 40 years, the early 1900’s, before the tradition really caught on. For you see, Lincoln’s official Thanksgiving was sanctioned in order to bolster the Union’s morale.

Many Southerners saw the new holiday as an attempt to impose Northern customs on their conquered land. You might say that Thankfulness was “politically incorrect!”

It is sad when we consider that thanking God for His bountiful provision might be politically incorrect, inconvenient, or unnecessary. This was the sin of the people Paul discusses in Romans 1 where he said, 21 “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (KJV)

I am grateful that Thanksgiving has become a national holiday that is celebrated by most. And yet even though we may be pleased at this advancement we must be careful to assure that the emphasis is on Thanksgiving and not on holiday. Our celebration and feasting could easily become an exercise in gluttony rather than gratitude.

Dr. Gayle Woods

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