Giving Thanks for a Thanksgiving Hymn

My favorite Thanksgiving Hymn is Martin Rinkart’s, “Now Thank We All Our God.”  From the time I was a small child, through an array of churches in small towns and big cities,  the combination of majestic strains of music and words, never fails to stir my soul.

In spite of writing this hymn during a time of great heartache and personal loss, Rinkart saw God’s blessings in each part of life.

1) “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.”

The hymn speaks to my heart and soul telling of God’s grace in the midst of difficulties and trials. Rinkart wrote these words recognizing God’s care, in the midst of a plague which had devastated his city of Eilenberg, Germany. Refugees from the 30 Years War has sought sanctuary there. Just as Covid spread more quickly in crowded homes and workplaces, so those same overcrowded conditions contributed to the plague’s spread in Eilenberg. Rinkart was a Bishop, who at one point, was the only clergy person left in the city. He spent his days going from one gravesite to another, offering prayers and consolation, as families lay a beloved spouse, sibling, father, mother or child to rest. Nor, was he immune to the suffering around him, for Rinkart’s wife was among those who died.

I would have been exhausted from all the grief and pain, of being at so many places of loss. Yet, Rinkart experienced God’s grace throughout the time of devastation. He was able to praise God, because God dwelt in his heart, a living presence of comfort, encouragement and strength.  He speaks of that in the second verse.

2) O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world and the next.

He concluded his hymn of praise with these words.

3) 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.

Even in our difficult days, most of us know deep in our hearts that we have been blessed.   May this Thanksgiving be a time to count your blessings and name them.    As you celebrate, whatever your situation, may you find strength and hope, in God’s steadfast and everlasting love. 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
    and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 26:7