When a Turkey Gets Pardoned

14781510951_28ac287358_abraham-lincoln-and-tadEvery year since 1989, the President of the United States grants an official pardon to one lucky turkey. It had been an on-again, off-again ceremony up to that point. Truman did it in 1947. JFK did in 1963, three days before he was assassinated. But with George H.W. Bush, it became the annual tradition that it is now.

Being the history geek that I am, I wanted to dig a little deeper to see how the whole tradition got started. And here’s what I found on whitehousehistory.org:

The tradition of “pardoning” White House turkeys has been traced to President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks, who noted, “a live turkey had been brought home for the Christmas dinner, but [Lincoln’s son Tad] interceded in behalf of its life. . . . [Tad’s] plea was admitted and the turkey’s life spared.”

Don’t miss these details:

  • It was Lincoln, who had already brought freedom to millions who had been in bondage.
  • It was Christmas, not Thanksgiving.
  • It was Lincoln’s son, Tad, who interceded to his father on behalf of the turkey.

It’s that last detail that stops me in my tracks. As I think about what I am grateful for this Thanksgiving season, I am most grateful for a Heavenly Father who proclaimed freedom for the captives (Isaiah 61:1). That at Christmas, His son came into the world in order to set us free (John 8:36). And that God’s son, Jesus, does not condemn us. Instead, He is at the right hand of God and is at this moment interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

Because here’s the deal. There are a lot of days where I’m pretty much a turkey. Maybe I’m impatient with my family. Maybe I’m selfish toward my wife. Maybe I’m insensitive to the needs of a church member. Maybe I give in again to a secret or shameful sin. On those days, I am reminded of a Son interceding to His Father to seal my pardon. And I am so grateful.



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