They all thought I was asking them a straightforward question, when will they ever learn? They assumed the answer I wanted was that we say thank you for our food because we neither wish to die or be without enough. But that wasn’t my point.
They latched onto what you could describe as the negative reasons for harvest thanksgiving; reasons that describe the negative side of life. Whereas, what I wanted them to think about were the positive reasons for harvest, the reasons that underlie the sheer exuberance that characterise harvest festivals all around the world.
Harvest festivals are always bright and bubbly affairs regardless of where you live. Their extravagance of colour, sound and movement revel in the sheer joy of being alive and the many ways in which this is expressed. Harvest isn’t merely a way of saying ‘Thank goodness were not dead!’; instead it wants to rejoice in what it means to be alive in all its depth and vibrancy. At a recent school harvest assembly, I demonstrated this by playing a duet with my son Max that was full of humour and bounce, such that the children couldn’t help but jig around on the floor. This is what harvest is about; it is to say thank you for the sheer wonder and verve of what life is about.
This is one of the reasons why I enjoy playing the ukulele. Here is an instrument that refuses to be taken too seriously, but instead delights in its own simplicity and joy which is to characterise life itself. It is an instrument that captures the bliss and joy of harvest and the discovery that life is good.
Harvest reminds us that life is the greatest gift of God to each and every one of us. Of a life lived to the full here in the midst of this breath-taking creation, as well as the unimaginable life that we will live in the new creation to come. Such a gift we’re not to keep and hoard for ourselves, but instead it is to be a life we willingly and gladly share with those both near to and far from us.
This is why we have harvest and why we give thanks for food; that we may live this life of gratitude, and that others may do so too.