Today is considered one of the busiest travel days of the year. Thousands and thousands of people are spending today in cars or planes traveling across town or across country to spend time with their families and give thanks. Today’s hymn celebrates the blessings of community. “We Gather Together” was originally written by the Dutch Protestants as a victory song over the Spaniards, under whose Catholic monarchy they were forbidden to worship. The hymn first makes its appearance in American hymnals in the early 1900s, and made popular by Dutch Reformed congregations, it soon gained traction with the general populace. A reference in Wikipedia notes that America found common ground with the hymn by World War II, when “the wicked oppressing” phrase had morphed from Catholic Spaniards to the Axis Powers of Germany and Japan.
I find this a rather fascinating history. The song is so closely tied to family or religious gatherings, I never knew that it had a more political and war-fraught meaning. However when reading the lyrics now, that does make sense. Isn’t it interesting how a song can morph from being a victorious proclamation of religious liberty to a Thanksgiving hymn that rejoices in unity and community?
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
May you and your loved ones enjoy safe travels and savor the company of family and friends as we give thanks this week.
Blessings to you,