THANKSGIVING DAY 1814 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace, I have deemed it pr oper by this proclamation to recommend that Thursday, the 12th of January next, be set apart as a day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering at the same time in their respective religious assemblies their humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance and amendment. They will be invited by the same solemn occasion to call to mind the distinguished favors conferred on the American people in the general health which has been enjoyed, in the abundant fruits of the season, in the progress of the arts instrumental to their comfort, their prosperity, and their security, and in the victories which have so powerfully contributed to the defense a nd protection of our country, a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the Human Race that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses against Him; to support and animate t hem in the discharge of their respective duties; to continue to them the precious advantages flowing from political institutions so auspicious to their safety against dangers from abroad, to their tranquillity at home, and to their liberties, civil and rel igious; and that He would in a special manner preside over the nation in its public councils and constituted authorities, giving wisdom to its measures and success to its arms in maintaining its rights and in overcoming all hostile designs and attempts aga inst it; and, finally, that by inspiring the enemy with dispositions favorable to a just and reasonable peace its blessings may be speedily and happily restores. Given at the city of Washington, the 16th day of November, 1814, and of the Independence of th e United States the thirty – eighth. JAMES MADISON
A DAY OF FASTING & HUMILIATION 1798
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, JOHN ADAMS
A PROCLAMATION As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation by the unfriendly disposition, conduct, and demands of a foreign power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredations on our commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow-citizens while engaged in their lawful business on the seas – under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.
I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; that it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages; that the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts, and manufactures be blessed and prospered; that the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.
And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favors conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation. Given under my hand the seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this 23d day of March, A.D. 1798, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-second.
By the President : JOHN ADAMS
In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to feature some of the Christian men and women who had a major influence on American history.
In the early day of Reconstruction after the Civi War, the Radical Republicans tried to ensure civil rights were extended to the estimated 2.3 million freed slaves. Christian missionaries, teachers, and business owners all came to help rebuild and bring equality to the newly freed blacks.
When the Radical Republicans ruled, blacks were given unprecedented power and influence. One of those great men was a Christian pastor Hiram Revels, the first black member of the US Senate. Revels believed that his appointment to fill the empty MS seat would “be a weakening blow against color line prejudice.” The Democratic minority hoped that a black Senator would “seriously damage the Republican Party.” Following is a short biography of Revels.
Hiram Revels (R) MS Senator: February 23, 1870 – March 3, 1871
Revels, Hiram Rhoades (1822–1901). African-American Methodist minister, politician and educator. Born of free parentage in North Carolina, Revels went to Quaker institutions in Indiana and Ohio and to Knox College in Illinois. In 1845 he entered the ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), serving churches in the Midwest and border states. A local church dispute in St. Louis resulted in his shift to an African-American Presbyterian congregation in Baltimore in 1858. During the Civil War, he recruited for African-American regiments, served as a chaplain, helped set up Freedmen’s Bureau schools in Mississippi and rejoined the AME Church. In 1868 he changed his clerical status to the Methodist Episcopal Church (ME), which had returned South for missions among the freedpeople. During Reconstruction, Revels advanced from local political roles in Mississippi to the state Senate until he became the first of his race to serve in the U.S. Senate (January 1870 to March 1871). Elected president of Alcorn University, he spent the remainder of his career in education, as a contributor to the church press and as a pastor and presiding elder. A representative to the General Conference of the ME Church in 1876, he fought unsuccessfully against the policy to permit a color line in the denomination.
Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).
Revels served and fought for the rights of blacks at a time of great civil unrest. The white and black people who came from the North to help ensure freedom for the black southerners were called “Carpetbaggers” by the white Democrats who wanted blacks to remain enslaved and oppressed. White Southerners who supported equality were labeled Scalawags by these same Democrats who sought to restore white supremacy. As noted in this PBS article,
Andrew Johnson (D) 17th US President: April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
After Lincoln’s assassination in April of 1865, President Andrew Johnson alienated Congress with his Reconstruction policy. He supported white supremacy in the South and favored pro-Union Southern political leaders who had aided the Confederacy once war had been declared.
Southerners, with Johnson’s support, attempted to restore slavery in substance if not in name. In 1866, Congress and President Johnson battled for control of Reconstruction. The Congress won. Northern voters gave a smashing victory — more than two-thirds of the seats in Congress — to the Radical Republicans in the 1866 congressional election, enabling Congress to control Reconstruction and override any vetoes that Johnson might impose. Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 that divided the Confederate states (except for Tennessee, which had been re-admitted to the Union) into five military districts. Each state was required to accept the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which granted freedom and political rights of blacks.
Eventually, the white supremacists employed methods such as Redistricting to ensure Democrat power, terror groups like the Klu Klux Klan, Rifleman and Red Shirts used force to keep white Democrats in power and suppress both the black and white voices seeking equality. Eventually, Reconstruction ended, and the Jim Crow Era took shape.
1950 Segregated Water Fountain under Democratic Jim Crow Laws (1876-1965).
Most whites rallied around the Democratic Party as the party of white supremacy. Between 1868 and 1871, terrorist organizations, especially the Ku Klux Klan, murdered blacks and whites who tried to exercise their right to vote or receive an education. The Klan, working with Democrats in several states, used fraud and violence to help whites regain control of their state governments. By the early 1870s, most Southern states had been “redeemed” — as many white Southerners called it — from Republican rule. By the time the last federal troops had been withdrawn in 1877, Reconstruction was all but over and the Democratic Party controlled the destiny of the South.
Despite the setbacks of the Democratic-led Jim Crow era, the legacy of the great Christian leaders like Hiram Revels who partnered with whites who shared his ideals should inspire all of us today who seek to insure the God-given rights of all peoples.
If you watch the news, you would think Christmas is one of the most controversial or despised holidays, but in truth the majority of Americans love to celebrate this tradition. According to Pew Research, 9 in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas; nones, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians in significant numbers all take time each year to commemorate this national holiday.
Christmas is not just a personal celebration; it is a time for family and community to come together. It is a public festival where individual homes and entire neighborhoods post elaborate displays, almost 75% of Americans are open to Christmas decorations on Government property and over 80% find gift-giving brings them joy.
But more important than embracing social conventions and public traditions, is what Americans believe about the historical nature of Christmas. The graphic below indicated that the majority of Americans accept the historical accuracy of key aspects in the biblical account; Jesus laid in a manger, wise men guided by a star, angels announcing the birth and Jesus born of a virgin. In fact, only a tiny percent of people reject all of these key elements.
But celebrating these holy days is not enough… knowing and accepting these historical facts is not enough. Christmas must be for us truth in action. A real life illustration may help us connect these Christmas dots.
In these past few years, studies have suggested that some Christians, like heavy metal Christian rock star Tim Lambesis, have walked away from their faith. For some, the facade of faith is just a means to commercial success or social acceptance. There are certainly a complexity of reasons why some these people rejected their Faith, but one Christian turned atheist explained his reason for walking away stemmed from a disconnect between beliefs and action. Years after turning away from God, and then turning back to God, Mike McHargue observed,
When you lose God through rational analysis, you contemplate life from a materialistic philosophy. This perspective shows you that man’s ideas about God are flawed. I believe again, but I also believe no church sect has figured out the Great Mystery. I have doctrinal beliefs, but I know some of them may be wrong. I just don’t know which ones.
In the midst of emotional conflict, McHargue abandoned the hope of God made certain in the Bible, rejected the materialism of Atheism, and eventually embraced a new faith; a ‘Faith of Confusion.’ McHargue’s new faith begins within himself and is rooted in the unshakable confidence of his own uncertainty. He concludes in his article,
Atheism doesn’t pretend to have answers to every question. Losing God changed me. I no longer feel like I have to have answers to all the questions we face in life. I’m happy to look for an answer without finding one, and I’m comfortable with uncertainty. My faith is an act of simple trust now.
What I know is less important than what I do. Knowing Jesus is not an abstract set of information or a construct of dogma. Being a Christian comes down to the simple of act of dropping my nets when I hear the words, “Come, follow me.”
In short, McHargue argues that the truth which undergirds his beliefs doesn’t matter as long as he takes action on what he believes today.
So what does all this have to do with Christmas?
McHargue’s faith journey is a microcosm of how Americans celebrate Christmas. Like McHargue, many Christians have made one of two mistakes.
- We have either concluded that the truth of Christmas means so much that all tradition must be rejected or…
- that the truth of Christmas is irrelevant as long as we enjoy the traditions.
Both approaches lead to error and ignore a third approach where Christianity is equally both truth and action; Faith is both doctrine and praxis. We cannot have a lasting Faith that diminishes the value of truth for the sake of action, or action for the sake of truth (James 2:17). In relating this to Christmas, it is a season where both truth and tradition matter. Insofar as “tradition” reflects the necessary action that corresponds to the truth of Jesus Christ, we can make two important statements.
First, the truth of Christmas matters. The Bible does not give a smorgasbord of events where we pick and chose the ones we like and reject the ones we find uncomfortable. From the miracle of Jesus’ first incarnation and the promise of His second; and all that lies between, accepting the historical truth of Scripture is the necessary foundation of our Faith.
Second, the tradition of Christmas matters. By tradition, I do not necessarily mean the specific practice of decorating trees or giving gifts (although these are fine ways to commemorate the day). By tradition, I refer the larger practice of the Church setting aside a season to celebrate the first incarnation of Christ and finding ways to demonstrate that truth by reaching to the world.
Christmas is, and must be, truth in action.
For God, Christmas is the truth of His love demonstrated in the condescension of his Son Jesus to take on human flesh so He might bring reconciliation to mankind (John 3:16; Phil. 2:6). For the Christian, Christmas must be the truth of Jesus as our savior manifest in our love to the people we meet each day; a tangible love that points people to the truth that gives us hope.
Christmas without truth ceases to be Christmas. Christmas without action ceases to be Christmas. Christmas is truth in action.
This is the text of a national day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer issued by President John Adams as printed in the Columbian Centinel, April 4, 1798. This proclamation was issued on March 23, 1798 declaring May 9, 1798 the day of fasting for the nation.
While this is not a Thanksgiving Day proclamation, it is still a great reminder of the need for prayer and God’s blessing in our daily life.
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States of America in office from March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801.
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist, nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty and of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation, by the unfriendly disposition, conduct and demands of a foreign power, evinced by repeated refusals to receive our messengers of reconciliation and peace, by depredations on our commerce, and the infliction of injuries on very many of our fellow citizens, while engaged in their lawful business on the seas: —Under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country, demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.
I have therefore thought it fit to recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens of these states, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies, agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming: That all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before GOD the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation; beseeching him, at the same time, of his infinite Grace, through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his holy spirit, to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; That it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication, that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate, and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence, and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished, and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages: That the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts and manufactures be blessed and prospered: That the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens; and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion, may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.
And finally I recommend, that on the said day; the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent Thanksgiving to the bestower of every good gift, not only for having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favours conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation.
Given under my hand and seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this twenty-third day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-second.
What is all the fuss about? I don’t think there is a “war” on Chistmas, but culture is changing and that is sometimes hard for people to take. Personally, I don’t mind if people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” because both are references to the religious tradition of Christ’s birth.
As American society trends toward secularization, the meaning behind words, customs and traditions is slowly lost. Shhhh… don’t tell the ACLU or all the public schools banning “Christmas” carols, but the word “Holiday” is from Old English “hāligdæg” and means “Holy Days”. The word “holiday” commemorates the holy nature of the season and the word “Holiday” has just as much, if not more, religious meaning than the term “Christmas”.
Knowing the meaning of “Holiday” makes the irony of the now ubiquitous seasonal rants by secular-humanists all the more humorous. Take, for example, this ABC article entitled, “Happy Holidays, There Is No God.” The article mentions one atheist groups endeavor called, the “godless holiday campaign.”
So what this particular group of people is really advertising is a “godless Holy Day campaign.” Really?… a ‘holy day’ to remember nothing is holy? Too funny! And the reporter who titled the article really wrote, “Happy Holy Days, There is No God.” What does this tell you about the state of journalism?
So the next time an ACLU-intimidated store clerk wishes you a “Happy Holiday”, just smile and rejoice and wish them a “Happy Holiday” in return. Words have meaning and this “Holiday” season is truly a happy celebration of the most Holy God and the birth of His son Jesus Christ!