For many, their favorite Thanksgiving hymns usher them back to that Sunday morning when they sat on a cool wooden pew, sandwiched between their cousins, perhaps for the first and last time all year. The songs remind them of their grandmother’s vibrato voice and floral perfume, and perhaps our grandfather’s snore. The lyrics trigger feelings of comfort and nostalgia, reminding us of when life felt simpler, and that extra slice of mother’s pumpkin pie was practically guaranteed.
But these long-loved Thanksgiving hymns, sung from one generation to the next, do much more than remind us of a simpler time. They help us reflect on all the reasons, in Christ, we have to give thanks. Whether this holiday season truly feels celebratory or evokes feelings of sorrow and grief, the truths we sing can bolster our hearts with treasured memories and God’s promise of the good that’s yet to come.
This hymn, originally sung as a Dutch patriotic song in celebration of Netherland’s freedom from Spanish rule, has been cherished for centuries. It’s a powerful reminder of God’s promise of total liberation that comes through His Son.
As the lyrics proclaim, we trust God to make His will known, to defend the oppressed, and one day, lead us all in victory. Therefore, we thank Him for all we have, as our current blessings in Christ abound. And we thank Him also for all that’s to come, proclaiming, even amid life’s hurts and challenges, “Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!”
With poetic lyrics, George Weatherly evokes images of golden wheat fields, swaying gently in the breeze and a faithful and hardworking farmer who raised his sickle to the harvest and his eyes to God.
“May our thoughts turn often in our gratitude,” he wrote, “to the Lord of harvest—giver of all good. He is Lord of harvest, and to Him we raise songs of sweetest measure, thankful songs of praise.”
In just over 100 words, this song reminds us our provisions don’t come from our jobs, the stock market, or our savings account but instead from God our provider. As we gather around the Thanksgiving table, may we also turn our thoughts in gratitude to the Lord of the harvest who indeed has given us all that is good.
When the world is radiant, rich with summer hours, wood and field and garden gemmed with brightest flowers; when the wheat is golden, gleaming in the sun, and the scythe and sickle harvest have begun. May our thoughts turn often, in our gratitude, to the Lord of harvest—giver of all good. He is Lord of harvest, and to Him we raise songs of sweetest measure, thankful songs of praise. He who in the winter clad the ground with snow, He who lit the springtime, caused the seed to grow; He who sent the showers, and the dew at morn, then the sunny hours, ripening fruit and corn—
3. "Great is Thy Faithfulness" by Thomas O. Chisholm
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This song, written by a Kentucky man who received no formal education, yet became a teacher by the age of 16 and an ordained minister at age 37, references many praise-bolstering truths in Scripture. When we sing, “There is no shadow of turning with Thee;” and “Thou changest not,” we’re reminded of verses such as Hebrews 13:8. This states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We’re also reminded of James 1:17, which promises, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” We can trust in goodness to come, knowing it is because of God’s faithfulness, not our worthiness of it, that we are not consumed (Malachi 3:16).
When we’re hurting and feel alone, we take comfort in the line, “Thy compassions, they fail not.” This rephrasing of Lamentations 3:22 encourages us to rest in the grace and love of Christ, knowing He sees us, hears us, and cares deeply for us. His tender mercies toward us, His children, will endure forever, long after our season of pain.
According to Hymnal.net, this song’s opening lines have been sung more than any other lyrics in some 300 years. They reveal a passion for Christ and the purity of the gospel, something Ken passionately and courageously fought for. Living during a time of rampant corruption among national and religious leaders, Ken’s bold and public stance against immorality and the sale of indulgences landed him in prison.
His hymns, the first to contain lyrics not based entirely on the Psalms, reveal his desire for Christ followers to experience freedom in worship. He wanted to see hearts connect, deeply and personally, to the One “from whom all blessings flow.” The God who flowed in and through him, and who longs to flow in and through us as well.
In this song, also known as, “We Praise Thee O Lord for The Bountiful Harvest” Crosby thanked God for the sower and reaper alike. “We praise Thee for sunshine, the dew and the rain,” she wrote, “for soft summer breezes so gracefully bending the bright golden billows of grain.”
In this, we’re reminded of all the perhaps less noticeable ways God continually cares for the farmer, his field, and all who eat its fruit.
We praise Thee, O Lord, for the bountiful harvest that now has been gathered and garnered with care; rewarding the toil of the sower and reaper, while all in its blessings may share. For the bountiful harvest we praise Thee, we thank Thee and bless Thee, O Lord: for the bountiful harvest we praise Thee and bless Thee, O Lord.
We praise Thee, O Lord, for the bountiful harvest, we praise Thee for sunshine, the dew and the rain; for soft summer breezes so gracefully bending the bright golden billows of grain. We praise Thee, O Lord, for the wonderful token that shines as it shone on Thy servants of old, the pledge and assurance that seedtime and harvest from earth Thou wilt never withhold.
We praise Thee, O Lord, for Thy wonderful mercies, and while to Thy glory our voices we raise, O Thou that regardest the prayers of Thy people, accept our thanksgiving and praise.
6. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" by Robert Robinson
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With all the challenges, uncertainties, and discouragement many of us have faced this past year, more churches and families may choose to sing this song than ever. When life becomes difficult, and we don’t feel like giving thanks, we ask God to “tune [our hearts] to sing Thy grace.” As we do, God answers our prayer by reminding us of the greatest blessing you and I have received—His mercy, never ceasing.
Indeed, “Jesus sought [us] when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.” His love pursued us, rescued and transformed us, and will carry us safely to our heavenly home.
7. "Give Thanks to God, Invoke His Name" by Isaac Watts
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Often, Thanksgiving hits in the middle of what feels like a rather thankless season. Perhaps this year that is true for you. With racial tension, political unrest, and the economy’s effects of our global pandemic, many may be entering the holidays with a heavy, discouraged heart.
Perhaps that’s why Watts lyrics have become such a favorite; they remind us that hope can come from the most challenging circumstances and that God’s goodness will prevail.
The song opens with a reminder of God’s faithfulness, stating, “His covenant, which He kept in mind for numerous ages past, to numerous ages yet behind in equal force shall last.” Watt then provides a powerful paraphrase that centers on the history of God and Israel and the symbolic message woven throughout Scripture’s pages. Like Israel, we too, were enslaved and set free by our liberating God and are being led to the Promised land of Heaven.
Written by a well-respected reverend’s son, this hymn begins thanking God for His provisions and the autumn harvest, proclaiming Him as the owner of all. Because we belong to a God of abundance, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), we can rest in His faithful care.
“God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied,” Alford wrote. But then, in the second verse, the focus shifts off of the field to that of God’s people. The lyrics turn supplicatory, stating, “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 presence to abide.” As the hymn closes, our hearts are lifted in praise and anticipation of our heavenly home.
Written by the youngest son of eighteen children, a man some consider to be the greatest hymn writer of all time, this song reminds us to view all of creation as a display of God’s loving care. Our Father created and sustains it all—the sun, rain, and the fields He nourishes. When we see evidence of God’s faithfulness all around us, joy and praise fills our hearts. His faithfulness indeed cheers us, as the hymn proclaims: “Full of providential love, Thou dost Thy sons sustain; Send Thy blessings from above In earth-enriching rain; From Thy river in the skies Streams through airy channels flow, Bid the springing corn arise, And cheer the world below.”
Full of providential love, Thou dost Thy sons sustain; send Thy blessings from above in earth-enriching rain; from Thy river in the skies streams through airy channels flow, bid the springing corn arise, and cheer the world below.
Kindly do the showers distill, taught by the art of God, all the settled furrows fill, and soften every clod; Thou the acceptable year dost with smiling plenty crown; clouds the treasured fatness bear, and drop in blessings down.
Springs the watered wilderness into a fruitful field; earth her hundred-fold increase doth at Thy bidding yield; hills and vales with praises ring, joy ascends to Heaven above; laugh the harvesters, and sing the bounteous God of love.
This song, written in 1875, is one of the most loved hymns Crosby penned. Through it, she calls us to celebrate the greatest gift God could have given—His Son. In verse one, we’re reminded of God’s incomprehensible, sacrificial love proclaimed in John 3:16, which states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,” to die a horrific death, so that you and I might receive life.
No wonder we sing, “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear His voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice!”
Sickness, challenges, and sorrows will come and go, but praise the Lord, our salvation in Christ lasts forever.
Research indicates music forms and enhances memory, cementing precious moments in our minds, to be evoked and cherished for decades to come. But our praises resonate even deeper, connecting our souls to our Creator. Is it any wonder, then, that hymns passed down from one generation to the next hold such a deep place within our hearts, especially over the holiday season? This Thanksgiving, may you encounter God’s presence with every hymn you sing, and may this lead to the formation of new precious memories.