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A Unifying Tradition

November 25, 2019
Weekly Columns

Each year in the United States of America, we observe the special tradition of coming together around a table of food to reflect on our blessings. Especially during a time of great division and polarization, it is important for Americans to join in collective gratitude this year.

This unique American tradition is ages old, even predating the birth of our nation. As we remember, the very first Thanksgiving feast took place centuries ago in 1621 at Plymouth Rock, when the Pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest after experiencing devastating trials and loss. The resilience of the Pilgrims in dire circumstances and their providential partnership with Native Americans still serves as a reminder of divine provision. Indeed, that same favor has carried us through many challenges in our nation’s history and brought us together in gratitude time and again.

When America was still a young nation in 1789, President George Washington rightly declared “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” And in the thick of the Civil War that threatened to tear our nation apart, President Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed in 1863 the need for a national observance every year.

Many Thanksgivings later, it remains true that we live in a truly blessed nation with precious freedoms for which we can all be grateful. Even when trials, disagreements and differing points of view seek to divide us, this annual celebration reminds us to take a step back, pause in reflection and remember that we are stronger together.

As our nation joins to give thanks this week, I hope you’re fortunate to spend it with your family, friends and loved ones. And in gathering with those closest to you, please take a moment to lift up in prayer our brave military service members, especially those who are stationed in dangerous places around the world and separated from their families this year. It’s because of their sacrifice that we can share this joyous holiday with our own families in peace and freedom.