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.
Holidays are all about the family gathering together and celebrating. For many years, I took this for granted. Our small house in Castile, NY was filled to capacity many times with grandparents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, in-laws, etc. My sister-in-law's home was also bursting at the doorways with people. Card tables were erected for the kids. The kitchen was in chaos--someone was making gravy, another mashing potatoes, the turkey was being carved, and kids were running through, playing tag. It was the usual holiday pandemonium and then the meal was served. Other than the clatter of dishes and the clank of silverware, the decibel level lowered significantly. By the time dessert rolled around, we were semi-comatose in a haze of carbohydrate over-indulgence.
This scene is probably quite typical for many American families. The Thanksgiving feast is a symbol of the bounty of the country in which we live, the material blessings we've been given, and our cultural bent to excess. We love choices, and the abundance of side dishes on the table sure give us plenty at this time of year. It's also a time to get as many people around the table as we can. That's the real blessing, families, friends, and yes, even strangers around the table.
Celebrations around the table are special. The intimacy of eating a meal together is something we all crave. It doesn't matter what we're eating, but that we're together. That gathering is mentioned many times in Scripture.
David wrote about it in Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Solomon in The Song of Solomon 2:4 Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.
The prophet Isaiah talking about the great feast to come. Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.
A comment from one at the table eating with Jesus. Luke 14:15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
As you sit down down to that wonderful meal this week, give thanks for the bounty of the table--for those who sit around it, God's provision of food, and the great celebration feast yet to come.
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.
Let's get this factoid out there first thing. No family is perfect. In fact families, including my own are at least a little bit dysfunctional if not a whole lot. But, that's what makes family gatherings a lot more interesting. The quirky characters, the stories about strange Aunt (fill in the blank), and then wagering with your sister if everyone can get along for one afternoon out of the year--it should sound familiar.
And I am thankful for my family--my biological as well as the one I married into. We've got some really great people in the family tree. They've come from all walks of life--pastors, teachers, machinists, musicians, a taxidermist, laborers, truck drivers, cops, nurses, you name it, and you'll find every vocation amongst the branches.
Since I was raised by two PK's (PK = preacher's kid), discussions over coffee and dessert could range from dispensationalism to who the Nephilim might be. Music was part of everyday life. My mother playing the piano, my dad strumming his guitar and singing. We had cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents in our house all the time. Those were the days when you could just show up at someone's door and it wasn't a big deal. No one called before them came, especially family. Whatever was being prepared for dinner was made to stretch and miraculously feed everyone. If you showed up after supper, the men made a quick trip to the store for ice cream.
After marriage and kids came along, we hosted family dinners and birthday parties.Our girls had the blessing of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins visiting on a regular basis. The big get togethers on my husband's side were at my sister-in-law's house. She had the biggest house. It was non-stop playing for the young cousins, playing Rook for the adults, and of course way too much food. Whether it was politics, religion, or whose Rook rules we were playing by, conversation was always lively. Perfect times? No. There were disagreements, crying children, over-stressed cooks, and a few minor food disasters; all the typical family get together stuff. But it was good. Lots of fond memories made.
While our families aren't perfect by a long shot, there's a lot of love to go around, and a shared faith that binds us together, stronger than the hugs we give each other. Who prays harder for you than family? Who loves you even when you're as irritating as all get out? Who will make the dinner cooked for four, stretch to feed four more? But the added blessing of the extended family of faith is a bunch of extra brothers and sisters you get, which brings to mind the old hymn below. That family isn't perfect either, and there's plenty of dysfunctional to go around in the church. But, we're family and we take care of each other.
While the biological family ties us together by blood, the family of faith is tied together by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We've been blessed with wonderful biological families and church families, who have stood by us, prayed with us, shown us hospitality, visited us when we were sick, and shared a lot of laughs. Doubly blessed once again by the Heavenly Father who loves to give us such good things.
Love one another, deeply from the heart I Peter 1:22(b)
In this month of planning and enjoying the Thanksgiving feast, it seems fitting to begin with the Source of all our blessings. I grew up in a church that sang the Doxology week in and week out, along with "Amen" at the end. I took those words for granted, but now age has given me an appreciation for those traditions. It's a song where we can begin to examine thankfulness.