Last month my wife and I made a trip to Canada and spent a week with friends in Newfoundland. As we were leaving, Canada was about to celebrate its national day of Thanksgiving. Theirs falls a little more than a month before we celebrate ours in the United States. I felt like staying over another day just to celebrate with our friends, but home called me back.
I have always been in love with the American Thanksgiving. As the fall season comes to a close and a nation gathers for a celebratory meal with family and friends, the romantic within me is unleashed. For a day I can imagine a land and its people turning their faces to God—all in their own way acknowledging something larger, more expansive, than the narrow confines of daily life.
Sometime in my youth I saw an old Currier and Ives engraving of a New England farmhouse with smoke curling out of its chimney. Lights were on inside, and people were arriving in buggies all laden down with baskets of food. Was it a homecoming? Were children coming home to Grandma's house?
I would put myself into that picture and desire the same for my family. For a time in my youth we did go to Grandma's home on Thanksgiving and gather with our large family of cousins, aunts and uncles for a day of feasting. My wife and I have tried through the years to keep this tradition going in our growing family by gathering with our parents and bringing along the children and grandchildren. It gets harder as the years go by, but we make every effort to gather on this day.
History and hope
The origins of the day are well known. The first year in the new world for pilgrim settlers in New England was rough, and they gathered with Native Americans to have a meal and give thanks. Later, it became customary for nearly every U.S. president to call for an annual day of thanksgiving. The proclamations began with George Washington. But it was during Franklin Roosevelt's second term that the fourth Thursday in November was fixed as the national day of Thanksgiving.
Today Thanksgiving remains popular as a holiday of traditional foods, family gatherings and football. This marvelous day of collective family and national bonding hints of an underlying spirituality even though secularism is making inroads into the character of the people. Ironically, the popularity of the day is in part because it is a national rather than a religious day of Thanksgiving. This is not lost on many observers.
That the day is still so popular throughout the nation is a sign of hope. There is a remnant within the land who recognize there is something more to America than just being one large consumer for the world's goods. Materialism alone, some understand, does not satisfy the deepest human needs for meaning and purpose in life.
Reflecting on the year
It has been a tough year for the world's economy. In the United States, upwards of one third of the wealth has been wiped off the books. Housing prices have plummeted, the stock market has lost billions of dollars of value, and the retirement accounts of the aging baby boomers were turned upside down. And while the entire system did not collapse and the market did make some modest gains, there is a sense of unease about the future. Those who stop to consider have a sense that things will not be the same going forward, but they do not know just what to expect.
Like many of you, I look at my financial statements each month and see the erosion. It is as if I have put my money into bags with holes. It fell right through and has disappeared, never to be found again.
We are living a perfect example of God's words through the prophet Haggai: "You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes" (Haggai 1:6 Haggai 1:6You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but you have not enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earns wages earns wages to put it into a bag with holes.
American King James Version×).
This Thanksgiving, like last, offers an opportunity to reflect that the good times may not last forever. The signs of the times tell us there are other nations and peoples who sense America has been weakened and are circling like predators desiring to seize the moment and wrestle her power, might and strength away for their own use.
Many say that great powers rise and fall and that America is declining along the natural way of nations. The time has come, they say, for America to exit the stage and give way for others on the ascent.
There is one thing wrong with this picture. The power and wealth America has held during its history is not something that was gained by its own exceptional abilities. The great national blessings celebrated each year at Thanksgiving were granted by God through a series of promises and blessings that stretch back in time to the biblical patriarch Abraham.
America's position in the world for more than 200 years is due more to the faithful promises of God than to anything done through its national experience. The wealth and power from God will not flow to others in the same way. It cannot be taken as the great nation stumbles.
The biblical details behind this key of understanding are told in our booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. It is worth reading, especially at this season of Thanksgiving. For those who want to open a window of revealed understanding, it offers another dimension to world history. Your love for God and for America will be magnified through this booklet.
America is exceptional because God made her so. It is wealthy beyond any other empire in history because God prepared this land in advance and gave it to the descendants of Abraham in fulfillment of His pledge.
Its liberty and freedom are rooted in a biblical ethic well understood by the founding fathers. Imbedded in a unique form of governance, it has spread this freedom to many places throughout the world. Where the American and British form of law and economics were planted, people prospered, more than under any previous system. When the day comes that this influence is removed from the world, a different form of power will arise. The results will not be the same.
How stands the land?
On this American Thanksgiving, what do we see as we look out across the broad land?
We see a people searching for a way forward during a time of growing doubt and uncertainty. In 10 years, will America still hold its present role as the guarantor of freedom for a growing global economy, or will other powers rise to eclipse this long-held role? Will Americans enjoy the world's highest standard of living, or will increasing national debt cripple the nation beyond recovery?
It is time we Americans consider our ways, bend our knees to the God of heaven and confess we need a new beginning and a new heart. It is time we take a fresh look at the Bible and seek a new national character forged in righteousness and humility. Before He completely removes His hand of blessing, it is time to seek God with our whole heart.
God will hear the prayer of one who is chastened and sincerely seeking Him. He can hear your prayer. He is closer than you think.
Use this year's Thanksgiving season to consider a new and better understanding of the God who has blessed this great land. Lift your hands and your heart in grateful thanks for what you have and ask this God to reveal Himself to you. WNP