Today’s Thanksgiving hymn is “Now Thank we all our God.” This is probably the most well known hymn for the holiday. I remember singing it in grade school, with images of pilgrims gathered around rustic tables and wheat stalks etched permanently in my mind. This song was written in 1632 by Martin Rinkhart, a German pastor/hymnwriter. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock a few years before, so it’s doubtful they would have heard this song, but I’m sure they would have deeply cherished it if they had known it. The author was an interesting man. According to Wikipedia he opened his home to the refugees streaming into his town to avoid the 30 years war. At the height of the plague during the 1630s, Rinkhart was the only surviving minister from his town of Eilenburg. IN 1637, he conducted over 4000 funerals, including his own wife’s. I bring this up not to depress you, but so you’ll understand the context in which he penned this words. His life was filled with uncertainty, political and social turmoil, disease, cultural disruption… but still his soul was settled on God and in Him Rinkhart found contentment and peace.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Though a short hymn, it is rich with personal meeting. Note the progression of the words: it starts with the reminder that God fashioned us and prepared a place for us in the world. He provided nourishment and guidance in the days of youth. The author then is encouraged that God’s faithfulness will endure to the end of this life and carry us through to eternity. He meets our needs and blesses our hearts with contentment and joy. These gifts of the heart are not dependent on our circumstances, but as the last verse illustrates, flow from the knowledge that God is sovereign and good. He gives us strength and grace for this life and the promise of His enduring presence to come.
Blessings to you,