“You crown the year with Your goodness,
and Your paths drip with abundance.”
One of the most popular songs we sing at Thanksgiving time contains these words:
“Come, ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home.”
For many people, it is hard to raise the song of “harvest home.” They live in the city. They do not help with the farm work or the harvest. Recently a young lady was interviewed on television concerning a huge dairy farm that was being built in her area. She complained about the smell it would bring and added that farm was unnecessary. After all, she argued, she could buy milk at the store.
Even on the farm it is not like it used to be. The more advanced machinery moves even the farmer farther away from nature. When I grew up on the farm, we milked the cows four at a time. A local farmer in our area has a milking parlor that milks sixty-four cows at a time. My father always insisted on paying cash for his machinery. That usually meant we had the oldest machinery in the neighborhood. We would harvest our corn one row at a time. The harvester would bundle the corn in the field; we would toss the bundles on the wagon and then chop it at the silo. That meant handling the stalks of corn at least three times before getting it into the silo. Believe me when I write that we were thankful when the harvest was home. We were thankful for the end of each day!
Certainly we do not want to go back to the days of the thrashing machines or husking corn by hand. The trouble is that all of this modernization has taken away from us our sense of wonder. As tractors become equipped with GPS systems and combines with built-in televisions, the work becomes easier and takes us away from the miracle of life within nature.
What thrill is there to picking up a dozen eggs at the local grocery store compared to carrying a basket to the chicken coop and gathering the eggs from their nests? It is much more satisfying to harvest a bushel of tomatoes from one’s own garden than buying a pound at the store. Roundup takes care of our weeds, the lawn service schedules our mowing, and the sprinkler system keeps it growing. Somehow, the sense of our thanksgiving to God was so much greater when we actually had to struggle with the land.
A quick trip to the store does not produce the same kind of thanksgiving to God for His blessings as an actual harvest from the field or garden. It has become more difficult for us to keep grateful worship as a very real part of our Thanksgiving Day celebration.
Instead, we see it as a day of feasting, over-eating, alcohol consumption, and football. I have often heard the day labeled as “Turkey Day” instead of Thanksgiving Day, illustrating where the priorities really are. It is a shame that a sense of deep gratitude to God is disappearing from our culture today.
We need to see this day as a day of giving deep gratitude to the almighty God for His rich blessings showered upon us more abundantly than we ever dreamed possible. Certainly God has crowned us with His bounty so that our wagons overflow (65:11).
Farmers are always impressed with how much the crop is the direct result of God’s divine help. But are the corn fields, bean fields, and the gladiola fields the only evidence we have of God’s great goodness? Doesn’t God shower His blessing on those who live in the city?
He most certainly does! We need but look to the friendships established, the food shared, and the possessions given. All of it comes from God—every physical blessing as well as every spiritual blessing. All of us, from our birth to our death, are guests at a table that we did not spread. The sun, the earth, and the air that we breathe all come to us from God. Add to that the love we share with family and friends and the fellowship we have with fellow Christians. Those, too, come from God. In addition, the believer must add the greatest gift of all that has been given to us: reconciliation with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. All these are part of the great banquet that God has given to us.
Last month, churches in Canada celebrated Thanksgiving. This month, special time is set apart by our churches in the United States to bring thanks to God for His bountiful gifts. We are to use the time to learn more about the God who has fed us for so long. May there be real worship of the true God who gives us our daily bread for substance and the Living Bread for salvation.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
He is also the editor of The Outlook.