We sang Thanksgiving songs today in church, and one song struck me in a new way. Having sung it for nearly my entire life, I finally understood it:
"Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home.
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin."
Written originally in a time when societies were agrarian, this song could not have helped having resonance with its singers. Talk of harvest, the quality of the produce, the preparation for harsh weather ahead. In the middle 1800s, people depended on their own labors to ensure food enough; they helped their neighbors in times of struggle, just as their neighbors helped them. But everyone also knew that a blessing of grace, good weather, health, and strength were not to be treated lightly. They desired to bring their thankful song home. To whose home? To their own, of course. But they also raised them to someone higher up. Thanksgiving is supposed to be as elemental as this: we have food, we can be together to share it, and we're thankful. All is safely gathered it. Even us.
Whether our forebears were merely anticipating a cold winter, or whether they feared something more man-made, they took comfort in the earnest effort and trusted that diligent preparation would be enough to sustain them. They had been obedient and had faith in the rest. Modernly, we also build security gathering in life's harvest. For us, the crop can be strong, caring and responsible children-citizens, fiscal responsibility, the good will of our neighbors and friends, the diligent upkeep of our homes. More importantly it is the reservoir of spiritual strength we have stored up within ourselves and our families. We all plan ahead for protection against the cold winds, whether they be natural or the bluster of an occasional hard society. We trust, after all we can do in obedience, that good will stand on our side. We have faith in all the rest.
"Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be."
Corn is a very versatile grain: if it is less tasty to humans, livestock still love it. If it won't work as cooking oil for your cake, it can be squeezed into ethanol to run your car.
It is pleasant to think of ourselves as tall cornstalks carrying bundles of vitally nourishing grain (or renewable and environmentally safe fuel) to those around us, strong and resilient even in poor conditions, tougher than the storms that blow on us and the sun that bakes us, and, in the end, a life-saving resources to those we love. And make no mistake - we do feed AND transport, both bodies and spirits! We are good grain, and we are so thankful.
See us now, green-golden and straight-backed, rustling gently in the breeze.