Today we sang the traditional Thanksgiving hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” as a part of our worship service. This hymn sits in the “Dedication and Thanksgiving” section of our hymnal, and I suspect the editors of The Baptist Hymnal did not read past the first line of the hymn. Stranger still, the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal (2006) places this song under the heading “Stewardship”. It seems the editors of Glory to God: The Presbyterial Hymnal (2013) were the only ones to read the entire song and categorize it appropriately under the heading “Christ’s Return and Judgment”.
If you are familiar with Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-30, then you will immediately recognize that this song is not about the traditional conception of harvest–which we associate with Thanksgiving, but rather with the concept of harvest which Jesus uses frequently in Matthew as a euphemism for the Final Judgment.
This parable–and this hymn which does a great job of putting this story to meter–is all about election. Perhaps it is the twisted theologian in me, but I smile at the irony that the editors of a Southern Baptist hymnal would encourage Southern Baptists to be thankful for election on Thanksgiving. Not that we shouldn’t be, but if you are in a typical Southern Baptist church, election is about the last thing SBCers would admit being thankful for. Here are the words of “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”. This Thanksgiving, may we give thanks…even for election:
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Henry Alford (1844)