This Sunday, we’ll be joining together to celebrate Harvest Festival and Thanksgiving. Both events, British and American, have one aim—to thank God for his provision and grace.
The tradition of Harvest Festival in today’s format began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his Morwenstow, Cornwall, church. On September 13, 1843, he put up a notice in the church for his new service: “Let us gather together in the chancel of our church, and there receive, in the bread of the new corn, that blessed sacrament which was ordained to strengthen and refresh our souls.” Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter,” “Come ye thankful people, come,” and “All things bright and beautiful” helped popularise his idea of harvest festival (https://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/famous-cornish-people/hawker.htm).
Thanksgiving is a holiday well-known in America for turkey dinners, with all the trimmings—cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, breads, dressing, pumpkin pie, and much more. The main point of the day is lots of food and American football, and for some back in the States (I include my wife and daughters when they’re back there), it’s more about football, than food!
But that’s not all it was in the beginning. It was primarily a Christian celebration of thanks directed to God, and the whole point of Harvest Festival and Thanksgiving is just that—thanks directed to God for his many provisions, based on his great, everlasting love, and creative rescues from all kinds of perils and disasters.
We live by the words of Psalm 103 that say: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (verse 19).
What this promise means for us is that God is in charge of all that happens on his earth, and, whether it looks like it or not, nothing occurs that hasn’t first passed his inspection. God has established boundaries on how much he will allow, and will bring perfectly balanced justice to every individual and nation in the end. And between now and the final wrap-up of history, he will continue to oversee, protect, deliver, and heal his people. When this fact finally sinks in, the meaning of this overly-familiar truth is enough to elicit great praise and gratitude from anyone—nation or group—who recognizes even an inkling of it.
So let’s take this opportunity to offer special thanks to our God for his sovereign rule, and for his stubborn love and patience with us frail and sinful creatures. Let us be conscious that it’s our daily words and observable actions of gratitude, our humble interaction with each other, that glorify God and bless those around us. How we honor God, what we say or do, directs our loved ones, friends, and others’ focus to the great, amazing God from whom all blessings flow.
Happy Harvest and Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours and looking forward to joining you in our celebration on Sunday.
In Christ’s love,