I love Thanksgiving. It's not just a day off work. It's not a day devoted to parades and football. It's not even about turkeys and pumpkin pies. As the name makes clear, it is a day devoted to giving thanks to God for the blessings we enjoy.
Thanksgiving traces its origins back to the Pilgrims -- those hardy pioneers who arrived on the shores of North America and, against all odds, carved a nation out of the wilderness. They came to the New World not seeking fortune, but freedom. Specifically, the freedom to worship God as they wished.
Thanking God for His blessings was a routine experience in our early years. The first official National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued by the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777, to celebrate our victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga.
In 1789, George Washington issued a National Day of Thanksgiving proclamation, in which he wrote:
"I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.
"That we then may all unite unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection. . . for the . . . plenty which we have since enjoyed . . . for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed. . ."
In October of 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling on the country to observe the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." And as America confronted a world at war in 1941, Congress voted to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
In his 1985 Thanksgiving proclamation, President Ronald Reagan wrote:
"Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name. Let every house of worship in the land and every home and every heart be filled with the spirit of gratitude and praise and love on this Thanksgiving Day. . .
"I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together in homes and places of worship and offer prayers of praise and gratitude for the many blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon our beloved country."
I believe all of us can be thankful that we are Americans. We are the descendants of the patriots who declared that "All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Carol and I wish each of you all of God's blessings at this special time of year. We are thankful for your prayers and partnership in our work defending family, faith and freedom.