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Lost Episode for December 20

James Buchanan CroppedOn December 20, 1858, in writing to the United States Senate, President James Buchanan made a surprising declaration regarding morality in the military:

“Under the act of January 17, 1858, the courts of inquiry were directed to investigate “the physical, mental, professional, and moral fitness” of each officer who applied to them for relief….In performance of my duty I found the greatest difficulty in deciding what should be considered as ‘moral fitness’ for the Navy….There has been but one perfect standard of morality on earth, and how far a departure from His precepts and example must proceed in order to disqualify an officer for the naval service is a question on which a great difference of honest opinion must always exist.”*

In his discussion of moral fitness for naval officers, President Buchanan said there would always be room for debate but one thing is clear: Jesus Christ is the perfect standard for morality and that is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read 1 John 2:3-6 and reflect on the encouragement to “walk as He walked” and compare that to the admonition of President Buchanan.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for Jesus and for the challenge to “walk as He walked.” We also thank you for your Holy Spirit who makes it possible to do what we could not do on our own. May we yield to His prompting and leading, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 11 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1907, 1910), 5:531-532.

 

Lost Episode for December 19

GW President closeupOn December 19, 1796, President George Washington wrote to his adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis:

“But as you are well acquainted with my sentiments on this subject, and you know how anxious all your friends are to see you enter upon the grand theatre of life, with the advantages of a finished education, a highly cultivated mind, and a proper sense of your duties to God and man, I shall only add one sentiment more before I close this letter (which, as I have others to write, will hardly be in time for the mail), and that is, to pay due respect and obedience to your tutors, and affectionate reverence to the president of the college, whose character merits your highest regards.”*

President Washington’s acknowledgment that his adopted son received an education that included a “proper sense of your duties to God and man” alludes to the Great Commandment and is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Mark 12:28-34 and reflect on the twofold Great Commandment and compare that with Washington’s advice.

Prayer: Father, we pray that you would help us keep the Great Commandment. May we love you with all that is within us and may we love others as we love ourselves, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., The Writings of George Washington, 14 vols., (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1889-93), 13:355.

 

Lost Episode for December 18

Charles_wesleyBorn on December 18, 1707, Charles Wesley was a prolific hymn writer and the brother of John Wesley, who was the founder of Methodism. Both were influential in the First Great Awakening that swept colonial America beginning in the 1730s and lasting for a generation. Charles wrote an estimated 6,500 hymns, of which some 500 are still in use. Among his holiday themed hymns, a favorite at Christmas is one Charles wrote in 1753:

“Hark the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Hark the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born King.”*

The birth of Charles Wesley, who penned a carol about the birth of Christ and helped fan the flames of the Great Awakening in America, is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Luke 2:8-14 and reflect on the angels praising God and compare that to the song Wesley wrote.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for these angelic messengers, heralding the birth of the new-born King and for Charles Wesley’s gift to us in song, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1855, 1980), 350.

 

Lost Episode for December 17

George Washington Head ShotIn his General Orders to the Continental Army, freshly encamped at Valley Forge, General George Washington directed on December 17, 1777:

“Tomorrow being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise: and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us. The General directs that the army remain in its present quarters, and that the Chaplains perform divine service with their several Corps and brigades; and earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day.”*

General Washington’s general orders to the troops in Valley Forge to observe the Day of Thanksgiving and Praise is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Nehemiah 8:9-18 and reflect on the leadership’s call for the people to observe the feast of tabernacles with rejoicing and compare that with General Washington’s call for his troops to observe the thanksgiving proclaimed by Congress.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for General Washington’s faithfulness to call his soldiers to worship you and to give you thanks and praise, even in a time of great difficulty, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington: Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts, with a Life of the Author, 12 vols., (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837), 5:524.

 

Lost Episode for December 16

GW President closeupUpon giving his final annual address to Congress, President George Washington received a gracious response from the House of Representatives, to which he replied on December 16, 1796:

“The virtue and wisdom of my successors, joined with the patriotism and intelligence of the citizens who compose the other branches of Government, I firmly trust will lead them to the adoption of measures which, by the beneficence of Providence, will give stability to our system of government, add to its success, and secure to ourselves and to posterity that liberty which is to all of us so dear.”*

President Washington believed that wise and virtuous successors to the office of President supported by patriotic and informed members of Congress who are together blessed by God’s Providence will lead a government marked by stability and success, resulting in a lasting legacy of liberty. Washington’s response is another lost episode in American history.

Read and reflect: Read Psalm 72:1-4 and reflect on King Solomon’s prayer for his successor and compare it with Washington’s hopes for his.

Prayer: Father, we pray for wise and virtuous leaders of our nation, and especially in the office of President, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 11 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1907, 1910), 1:209.

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