There was always food-a-plenty on my mother’s table on Thanksgiving. Traditional dishes and family favorites vied for the attention of the hungry troop that went through her buffet line. Our grandparents were there, as well as Aunt Mamie. Daddy’s blessing was much longer than his daily one, and the “good” china and silver graced the dining room table.
All day we focused on each other and spending time together. Family stories were shared again, and each one of us had our own spot at the table. Mine was to Daddy’s right. I can picture that table and my family; it is a good, good memory.
For a couple of weeks before this holiday, we sang Thanksgiving hymns that were all about gratitude for what God had blessed us with. One of my favorites was “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come.”
Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field,
Fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade, and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear:
Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the Lord our God shall come,
And shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day
All offenses purge away;
Give His angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store
In His garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come,
Bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified,
In Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come,
Raise the glorious harvest home.
During the month of September in England, English churches celebrated the Harvest Home. There would be a thanksgiving service held in the church when parishioners would bring the bounty of their harvests. A display of pumpkins, autumn leaves, and the food be the decoration, and then the bounty was given to the needy. It was all about the gratitude for the provision of God, just like the Pilgrims celebrated in 1621.
Henry Alford and George J. Elvey wrote this hymn wa in rural England in the mid-nineteenth century, when the life of the village during the winter depended on the bounty of the autumn harvest. While the first stanza of this hymn rejoices over the harvest, the last three stanzas expound on the reminder this image gives of the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds in Matthew 13. The hymn concludes with a prayer that the final harvest at His Second Coming would happen soon.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt described this truly American holiday.
“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.”
Listen to the majesty and gratitude of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing this hymn.