By Jackina Stark
Abraham Lincoln issued several proclamations. Two have forever affected American history and culture.
The Emancipation Proclamation, announced September 22, 1863, and effected January 1, 1864, shifted the foremost focus of the Civil War from preserving the Union to the moral issue of abolishing slavery. It made possible the long journey to “liberty and justice for all.” It is a revered document. The original is kept in the National Archives. Its pages are fragile and its ink is fading. It is so delicate it is displayed publicly only on special occasions. Despite its condition, it is considered one of the greatest documents in history.
A few weeks later, on October 3, 1863, Lincoln issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation. He stated that we have received “gracious gifts” from “the Most High God” and that these things should be “gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice” by the American people. He set aside the fourth Thursday of November for the “day of Thanksgiving.” Even in the midst of the Civil War, he wrote these words:
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.
We have been celebrating Thanksgiving for 154 years.
There are few proclamations more important than these, but for us Christians, there is one. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul reminds the church that Jesus gave us the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper so that whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, we will remember his death and, of course, what it means. Paul says that whenever we do this, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (v. 26).
All over the world, Christians partake of these emblems and proclaim as one the Lord’s death as well as many other amazing things:
Proclamation: God created the world and so loved it he gave his son.
Proclamation: Jesus lived among and loved “the least of these.”
Proclamation: Jesus is our great healer—emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Proclamation: After his sacrificial death, he rose from the grave and returned to the father to “prepare a place for us.”
In gathering around the table, we proclaim our spiritual emancipation and endless gratitude.
Jackina Stark is a retired Ozark Christian College English professor who lives in Branson, Missouri.