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“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”

Image result for thanksgiving dinner photos

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.

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Hanukkah and Christmas Eve

Jewish children love Hannukah: it means eight days of presents and candle-lighting and the coming of winter break. The menorah, a candelabra with nine branches for candle; fried food, especially donuts and latkes, and a wooden driedel/top are the core of the traditional day.

Hanukkah begins this year on Christmas Eve, for only the third time since 1872, and the first time since 1978.

Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, usually spelled חנוכה pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as Chanukah or Chanuka), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

The menorah holds nine candles. The center candle is the shamus or servant. It is used to light the 8 Hanukkah candles.
The Hanukkah candles are strictly for pleasure. They are not to be utilized for any useful or productive purpose. The shamus is available, so the Hanukkah candles aren’t accidentally used to light a fire in the fireplace or another useful purpose.
Gift giving is not traditionally a part of the Hanukkah holiday.
Playing dreidel is a gambling game popular during the Hanukkah holiday.
Fried foods are traditional during the holiday, representing the oil used to light the lamps.

During the time of Alexander the Great, Jewish culture began to blend with the Greek culture. Jews who accepted Greek culture at the expense of their religion became known as Hellenists. Alexander and the Jews had a mostly peaceful relationship; the Jews were loyal to his rule, and Alexander didn’t destroy and abuse them.

Around 190 BCE when Alexander left Israel, and Antiochus IV took over, most Jews had assimilated to Greek culture but continued to practice their faith. This was not sufficient for Antiochus.

He began to force the Greek culture on the devout Jewish people by placing Hellenistic priests in the Temple and desecrating it by sacrificing pigs at the alter, prohibiting Jews from practicing their faith, killing their faithful and levying heavy taxes upon them.

A rebel force of Jews formed around the year 166 BCE. They revolted against Antiochus’ government and took back the Temple.

In order to rededicate the Temple, oil was needed for the menorah, but there was only enough undefiled oil to last one night. It miraculously lasted eight days. Hanukkah is the eight-day Festival of Lights commemorating this miracle of the oil.

Even during war, the menorah was lit.

A traditional blessing is said when the middle candle is lit. “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to kindle the Hanukkah lights.” Other blessings follow and end with, “Hanerot Halalu We kindle these lights because of the wondrous deliverance You performed for our ancestors. During these eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred; we are not to use them but only to behold them, so that their glow may rouse us to give thanks for Your wondrous acts of deliverance.”

As I read about these traditions of Hanukkah and realized that Jewish people all over the world will begin their celebration tonight lighting that first candle, I believe there is much to be said about remembering the works of God in our lives. He is always working, whether we see His hand or not. In the Old Testament, over and over Jehovah told the Hebrews to build a memorial of rocks at the different places where God showed Himself to His people, and they did. As stories were told later in the homes of all these miracles, perhaps it was mentioned about the memorials.

When John reads the Christmas story from Luke tonight, we will focus on this miracle. Singing “Joy to the World” we will celebrate God’s gift to us on Christmas. His Son Jesus was born in a manger and swaddled with scraps of cloths. Stable animals, as well as Mary and Joseph, watched this miraculous birth that breathed the breath of heaven and earth. Jesus is the light of the world today and yesterday. And I believe we will light a candle!

Merry Christmas!

“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.

2. All the world is God’s own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to 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.

3. For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore.

4. 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 presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home.”

If you aren’t familiar with this old hymn, here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msOzJ6DY7EA – 290k

When I was growing up, this was a song we sang at Thanksgiving programs at school and at church. Dressed as Pilgrims and Indians, we sang at the top of our lungs. (The grocery stores with their brown bags provided our costumes. Perhaps you remember cutting holes out for our heads and arms.) We built log cabins out of popsicle sticks and took canned food for the needy. Acting out the story of that first Thanksgiving was fun.

It wasn’t until later that I learned that this holiday was a traditional harvest feast for the Pilgrims.

Food, football, and fellowship were the key ingredients to our home celebrations. There was a standard menu that always included turkey and dressing. The table and counter groaned with the side items. We ate in the dining room, and Mother brought out her good china and silver. Family and friends joined us each year, and each shared their family’s favorite recipes. Whether watching football or playing it in the backyard, it was the afternoon’s entertainment. Some of the adults slept through those tv games. Because of the abundance of food, there was always enough for supper.

As I spent time in the grocery store today with my list for Thanksgiving dinner, I found myself buying ingredients to make and bake those same delicious foods. Family memories are not to be taken lightly; they are a part of us. I am blessed that I had parents who believed in being grateful on a regular basis and appreciate their teaching us that importance. Those magic words of “thank you” should never grow old.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,  “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!