In all my years of celebrating Thanksgiving I had never heard of Sarah Joseph Hale. Does that name sound familiar to you?
She is most known for being the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which was also part of the first recording on Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph.
But she is also probably the person most responsible for Thanksgiving being a federal holiday.
Her series of editorials influenced President Lincoln to back legislation making Thanksgiving a national day of remembrance in 1863. It was the culmination of 17 years of work pleading with five U.S. presidents before providence took hold in the middle of the civil war.
For the Christian, Lincoln’s action is the perfect example of giving thanks even during difficult times. And the Civil War was one of the darkest hours in American history. We are reminded in Thessalonians, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
This is important for me because I have a tendency to thank God only during times of plenty or opportunity. But His grace and mercy abound in my life at all times, and Jesus’ sacrifice is an eternal gift. I’ve already experienced the thing most desired in every human heart, real love and real peace.
If you’re a Christian, remembering this and letting its truth be something that we’re thankful for daily is part of our call. If you’re not a Christian, it is part of the promise that God makes available to all who seek Him.
Lincoln “urged his countrymen to be mindful of their many blessings that are ‘the gracious gifts of the Most High God’ who ought to be thanked ‘with one heart and one voice, by the whole American People’.”1
As Christians today we should be urgently sharing the truth of the gospel, upholding the authority of scripture and giving thanks daily for our personal relationship with our Lord Jesus above our material blessings.
Sarah Joseph Hale and President Lincoln were instrumental in establishing Thanksgiving on our calendar each year. Let’s not forget God’s Word calls us to give thanks in times of famine and in times of feast.
References: 1. http://www.icr.org/article/thanksgiving-heritage