In a sense Thanksgiving Day is the most typical of all our great national days. It is as American as the aroma of burning leaves in the autumn and the fragrance of lilacs in the springtime. All the romance of the American story finds its expression in this historic day.
It brings to mind the memory of that picture which, in my day, used to hang on every schoolroom wall: the picture of a Puritan man, gun in hand, followed by his demure wife, Bible in hand, and their numerous children, making their way across a snowy landscape to their rustic house of worship--there to give thanks to Almighty God for the abundance of this land.
Thanksgiving is not primarily a feast day or a holiday: it is a day of religious devotion, a day of national dedication. One of the noblest portions of the Bible is the eighth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. I would recommend to each of you that on Thanksgiving Day you sit down and read that chapter. There, mention is made of the richness of the land, of the mighty works done, of the prosperity attained. Then the writer of the book says: "When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God." These are simple, direct, powerful words, depicting a very vital truth.
It was God who brought about American freedom. Two of our great forefathers, Hancock and Adams, were wornderful men, men of God. Where did they meet when they started the movement for freedom? In the Old South Church in Boston. Then they told the people assembled that a revolution was about to begin...The lanterns that were to signal Paul Revere were hung in the tower of the Old North Church. The philosophy of these people related all life to God.
...our Pilgrim Fathers were not rich or powerful; they were not highly educated. They were simple, real people. It took them 128 days to cross the Atlantic in their little ship of ninety tons. The record states that it was one of the wildest winters that ever swept the North Atlantic. The Mayflower landed in December, and it is cold on the New England coast in December. Columbus landed in October, and his crew mutinied. They were summer sailors. But there wasn't a single one of the Pilgrims who wanted to mutiny. During that first terrible New England winter ninety were sick at one time and only seven well enough to care for them. One by one they died--wives, husbands, children. And they laid them in the frozen earth, 51 out of 102. This nation was built by real people, strong, sturdy. And let us hope that we never get soft!
When our forefathers landed in America, what was the first public building erected--a store, a town hall, a library, a courthouse? No. The first public building was a church.
...In the 92nd Psalm are these words: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." And it is on the basis of a recognition that this is so--a recognition of the rightness and value of being thankful to God--that we annually celebrate Thanksgiving Day."
Prayer: Our Father, we thank Thee for Thyself, for Thy goodness, for Thy wonderful blessings given unto us. Bless our country, our President, all our leaders. Grant that out of the confusion of these times there may emerge into the modern world, with great modern efforts of social service and helpfulness, the old true principles and ideals of faith, self-reliance, enterprise, virtue, honor and religion which have characterized America in all of its great days and without which we can have no great era ahead. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Note: The entire article is excellent, and is to be found in "Creative Help for Daily Living," by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Vol. 21/No. 23, 1970.