Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving and The Blessings of Abraham

Thank You Heavenly Father for All Your wonderful Gifts and Especially Today the Gift of Families. In the Name of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, Amen and Amen!

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”...15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”--Genesis 17

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.  In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.  No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth. By the President: Abraham Lincoln William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Canadian troops attend a Thanksgiving service in the bombed-out Cambrai Cathedral
France, October 1918
Moravian Blessing

Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care.

"When was the first Thanksgiving? Most of us think of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. But if the question is about the first national Thanksgiving holiday, the answer is that the tradition began at a lesser-known moment in 1777 in York, Pa.

In July 1776, the American colonists declared independence from Britain. The months that followed were so bleak that there was not much to give thanks for. The Journals of the Continental Congress record no Thanksgiving in that year, only two days of "solemn fasting" and prayer.

For much of 1777, the situation was not much better. British troops controlled New York City. The Americans lost the strategic stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga, in upstate New York, to the British in July. In Delaware, on Sept. 11, troops led by Gen. George Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, in which 200 Americans were killed, 500 wounded and 400 captured. In Pennsylvania, early in the morning of Sept. 21, another 300 American soldiers were killed or wounded and 100 captured in a British surprise attack that became known as the Paoli Massacre.

Philadelphia, America's largest city, fell on Sept. 26. Congress, which had been meeting there, fled briefly to Lancaster, Pa., and then to York, a hundred miles west of Philadelphia. One delegate to Congress, John Adams of Massachusetts, wrote in his diary, "The prospect is chilling, on every Side: Gloomy, dark, melancholy, and dispiriting."

His cousin, Samuel Adams, gave the other delegates -- their number had dwindled to a mere 20 from the 56 who had signed the Declaration of Independence -- a talk of encouragement. He predicted, "Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection.

He turned out to have been correct, at least about the good tidings. On Oct. 31, a messenger arrived with news of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. The American general, Horatio Gates, had accepted the surrender of 5,800 British soldiers, and with them 27 pieces of artillery and thousands of pieces of small arms and ammunition.

Saratoga turned the tide of the war -- news of the victory was decisive in bringing France into a full alliance with America. Congress responded to the event by appointing a committee of three that included Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, to draft a report and resolution. The report, adopted Nov. 1, declared Thursday, Dec. 18, as "a day of Thanksgiving" to God, so that "with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor."

It was the first of many Thanksgivings ordered up by Samuel Adams. Though the holidays were almost always in November or December, the exact dates varied. (Congress didn't fix Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November until 1941.)

In 1778, a Thanksgiving resolution drafted by Adams was approved by Congress on Nov. 3, setting aside Wednesday, Dec. 30, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, "It having pleased Almighty God through the Course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States."

After the Revolution, Adams, who was eventually elected governor of Massachusetts, maintained the practice of declaring these holidays. In October of 1795, the 73-year-old governor proclaimed Thursday, Nov. 19, as "a day of Public Thanksgiving to God," recommending that prayer be offered that God "would graciously be pleased to put an end to all Tyranny and Usurpation, that the People who are under the Yoke of Oppression, may be made free; and that the Nations who are contending for freedom may still be secured by His Almighty Aid."

A year later, Gov. Adams offered a similar Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring Thursday, Dec. 15, 1796, as "a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Praise to Our Divine Benefactor." He recommended "earnest Supplication to God" that "every Nation and Society of Men may be inspired with the knowledge and feeling of their natural and just rights" and "That Tyranny and Usurpation may everywhere come to an end."

These statements were greeted with cynicism and derision by some of Adams's younger political opponents, who saw them as archaic. One of them, Christopher Gore, wrote a friend that it would be an occasion for a real day of thanksgiving when Adams finally retired.

It turned out, though, that the ideas of thanking God for America's blessings -- and of praying for the spread of freedom everywhere -- would long outlast Adams's career. The concepts still meet with skepticism from time to time. But they are reason enough to pause during tomorrow's football game or family feast and raise a glass to the Founding Father who began our Thanksgiving tradition."--Ira Stoll, author of "Samuel Adams: A Life"

Mark Steyn sets the table:

"You know, holidays in countries tend to be ancient religious holidays, obviously Christmas and Easter, or ones named for battles, or dead kings or queens, or whatever. And what I like about Thanksgiving is it's very small scale, very modest, very intimate, very American, and absolutely gets to the key of things, which is thanking God for the blessings of this great land. And it's my favorite holiday, and I love it more each year I'm here. ...
I am thankful that Mohamed Atef, a key al-Qa'eda lieutenant blown up in a devastating US raid, has gone off to Paradise to claim his 72 virgins. Paradise must be running quite low on virgins these days. I hope Mr Atef pulled rank on all the other martyrs... I am also thankful I don't live in a cave. That the son of a successful Saudi building contractor, made spectacularly rich by western investment, should have wound up digging himself his own personal hole is in its way a poignant emblem of the Middle East's perverse misunderstanding of modernity. ...
The turkey came from Mexico, but was generally assumed to be a "bird of India" (in French, dinde) everywhere except Britain, where it was named after Turkey because it was similar to a pre-existing bird introduced from Turkey but actually from Guinea, and subsequently re-named the guinea fowl, which was thought to be less confusing than re-naming the new turkey the mexico, though in America there is a sub-species of turkey called the mexicana.
We still have wild turkey over here, in every state except Alaska. Every morning, round about six, a great long line of them waddle out from behind my daughter's playhouse across the lawn and into the woods. The wild gobbler has a lighter build, with a longer neck and a smaller head, and his flesh tastes a lot juicier, which is one reason why the turkey recipe in my local Baptist church's brand new fundraising cookbook begins: "First purchase hunting licence."
Whatever his Mexicali-Turkic-Indian-Guinean appellation, in the Appalachians the turkey was considered such a robust exponent of the American temperament that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make him the young Republic's national emblem. "For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character," wrote Franklin in 1784. "Besides he is a rank Coward: the little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country."
By contrast, the turkey is "a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a Red Coat on".

(From our Archives, Nov. 2009):

Thank God for America 


And you can, too. Don't wait:

"Mankind is never truly thankful for the benefits of life until they have experienced the want of them."--an Army surgeon near Valley Forge, first official Thanksgiving day, 1789

For almost 400 years, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving, echoing that feast of gratitude in 1621.

But this year, more than ever, it is important to tell the story of the Mayflower Compact, because, as we know, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." The Compact was well-intentioned--but it was socialism. And as such, it caused misery and shortage then, just as it does now.

Some excerpts from an excellent Post Scripts essay:
Basically what the settlers formed was the first social commune of the New World, something that anyone growing up in the 1960s and 70s would easily recognize as a community where all land, houses, farming and other goods were distributed equally amongst all the inhabitants regardless of religious or political beliefs or station. It was the world's first society that was truly set up in a way that nobody would own anything and everyone who was in need would have what they required if it existed. In essence, the Mayflower Compact was a concept that would be popularized 255 years later in 1875 by Karl Marx's slogan,

"from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs."

When Bradford became the new governor of the colony, he recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter which had taken so many lives. Bradford came to realize the very thing that Barack Obama and the Democrats refuse to learn. In his journal Bradford wrote:

"The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing - as if [we] were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it." [...]

So in the Spring of 1623, he decided take bold action by assigning plots of land to each family, and also to each young adult male to work and manage. He also canceled the Mayflower Compact that the Pilgrims all signed, allowing every land owner to keep their own crops and products to trade at the market place for a fair market value.

"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

In writing about Bradford and his decision to go from collectivism to capitalism, historian Russell Kirk wrote, "never again were the Pilgrims short of food."

Just for the historical record, here are some other contenders for the "First Thanksgiving":

* May, 1541: Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and 1,500 men celebrated at the Palo Dur Canyon -- located in the modern-day Texas Panhandle -- after their expedition from Mexico City in search of gold. In 1959 the Texas Society Daughters of the American Colonists commemorated the event as the "first Thanksgiving."

* June 30, 1564: French Huguenot colonists celebrated in a settlement near Jacksonville, Florida. This "first Thanksgiving," was later commemorated at the Fort Carolina Memorial on the St. Johns River in eastern Jacksonville.

* Sept. 8, 1565: St Augustine, Fla.; "This is where Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore... This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast. The Timucuans brought oysters and giant clams. The Spaniards carried from their ships garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.

* Winter, 1610: famine caused the deaths of 430 of the 490 settlers. In the spring of 1610, colonists in Jamestown, Virginia, enjoyed a Thanksgiving service after English supply ships arrived with food. This colonial celebration has also been considered the "first Thanksgiving."

Oysters on a Florida beach sounds pretty good right about now. But wherever you are, have a great Thanksgiving with the people you love and/or tolerate.

And pass me a giant clam, please.


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