You may not recognize the name Sarah Hale, but you know her work. Sarah was born in 1788. She was, among other talents, a poet. Her most famous poem begins with the phrase “Mary had a little Lamb . . .” Her poem became so universally known that Thomas Edison used that opening line when he delivered the first speech ever recorded on his newly invented phonograph.
Sarah became the editor of at least two different magazines for women. She used her influence to argue for the end of slavery. And she also appealed to several United States presidents to set aside one day each year as a National Day of Thanksgiving to God.
After decades of persistence, Abraham Lincoln was the president who finally agreed with her request.
Lincoln was the least likely candidate to launch a National Day of Thanksgiving. It was a time in American history when few people were interested in thanking God for anything. The Civil War had been raging for several years.
But Lincoln proclaimed it so, and the first observance was in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War, and only a few short months after the deadly Battle of Gettysburg.
President Lincoln’s proclamation included these words:
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States . . . to observe a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up [statements of praise] due to Him for . . . blessings . . . they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.”
In other words, Abraham Lincoln wanted Thanksgiving Day to become nothing less than a day of national confession and revival.
Since that time, every president has proclaimed Thanksgiving a national observance on the final Thursday of November. Well, almost.
I find it humorous that one year, Thanksgiving was celebrated in December because President Andrew Johnson forgot to make the annual declaration!
The truth is that we sometimes tend to resemble Andrew Johnson. For some, Thanksgiving is just a speed bump on the way to Christmas. To others, Thanksgiving is a day to eat and shop and watch football. It’s easy to forget to be thankful.
This year, don’t forget thankfulness in your celebration of Thanksgiving. Take time to pause and heed the advice of Abraham Lincoln. “. . . Observe a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
What do you have to be thankful for? Leave a comment below and share your testimony of thankfulness.