There are a number of hymns that have traditionally been sung at Thanksgiving and one of my favorites is "Come Ye Thankful People, Come", written by Henry "Dean" Alford in 1844. It was written for the English harvest festivals, a movable feast which varies according to the harvest time in different villages that celebrate it. The hymn writer is regarded as a gifted, Christian leader of the 19th century, a distinguished theologian and scholar, as well as a writer, poet, artist and musician. The composer is George J. Elvey, an longtime organist at the Windsor, Royal Castle. Originally, this hymn was meant to be a harvest song, and was titled "After Harvest" with seven stanzas. Only four remained in common use. It was originally accompanied by the text "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6). The first stanza of this thanksgiving hymn is an invitation and a exhortation to give thanks to God in the earthly temple – His Church – for the heavenly care and provision of our earthly needs. The following two stanzas are an interesting commentary on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares as recorded in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. The final stanza is a prayer for the Lord's return –"the final harvest home" – the culminating event that Henry Alford saw as the ultimate demonstration of God's goodness in His eternal purpose of man's Redemption. It is said that at the end of a hard day's work, as well as after every meal, it was customary practice for "Dean" Alford to stand to his feet and give thanks to God for the blessings enjoyed during the day. This spirit of perpetual gratitude is clearly evidenced throughout this hymn. Because of Alford's strenuous efforts and unlimited activities in the Christian ministry, he suffered a physical breakdown in 1870, and died on January 12, 1871. During his lifetime one of his cherished dreams was to visit the Holy Land. Although this dream was never realized, it was said of him that his eyes were fixed upon the Heavenly Jerusalem toward which he journeyed. On his tombstone the following appropriate inscription is found: "The Inn of a Pilgrim Traveling to Jerusalem." So let me continue Alford's call for all thankful people to come and raise a song of praise to our great God who showers us with His blessings and provides us with more than we need. May you have a blessed Thanksgiving as you raise your voice in thanks to Him who alone is worthy of all of our praise.
(1) 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 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.
(3) For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His 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 His 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 garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home.
Listen to this week's hymn of thanksgiving here. LISTEN