Thanks, O God, for home and fireside, where we share our daily bread...
Thanks for grace in time of sorrow; thanks for hope today, tomorrow... .
- A Thanksgiving Hymn
August L. Storm
Perhaps we didnt need first lady Laura Bush to tell us,
This will be the most important Thanksgiving of our generation. Perhaps her recent speech to the National Press Club only expressed how we already feel about the holiday this year. We may not cut back on our feasting - we may even consume more - but this time around, even in a time of war, a sobered nation has a longer list of reasons to give thanks.
Its always been this way. The more we own or think we can do ourselves, the shorter our thanksgiving list. The more we lose or come close to losing, the longer the list of what we still have grows. Its doubtful anyone who witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center will ever again believe in the permanence of material things. Its also doubtful any of us, at least this Thanksgiving, will forget how quickly our values changed.
Other generations had defining moments, too, many during times of war. They also had their quiet leaders who, like Mrs. Bush, spoke or sang of their triumph over loss, and bequeathed their example to us.
Martin Rinkart was 31 years old in 1617 when he arrived in Eilenberg, Germany, to pastor the Lutheran Church. He would stay 32 years and die half a lifetime later, just as Europes terrible 30 Years War was coming to an end.
As one of the few walled cities in Germany at the time, Eilenberg became a haven for refugees in a war that cost 5 million lives in Germany alone. The quickly overcrowded city also became a magnet for famine and disease, including the great plague of 1637 when Rinkart was practically the only minister who remained to care for the sick and dying.
In the face of so much tragedy, we would understand if Rinkart merely went through the motions, his feelings numbed, his own body suffering from constant fatigue if not disease.
But we would be wrong. Rinkart was a man of deep faith, not just when things were going well, but especially when they were not. Sometime during those awful years, he took time to pen the words of a Thanksgiving hymn we still sing in our churches today:
Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mothers arms hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God thru all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed 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.
nother Thanksgiving hymn was also written in the context of war. This time it was the Dutch who finally won their freedom after more than a century of oppression by the Spanish. An anonymous author, with a gift for symbolism and a grateful heart, penned the following:
We gather together to ask the Lords 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...
So from the beginning the fight we were winning:
Thou Lord was at our side - all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our defender wilt be...
Thy name be ever praised, O Lord, (keep) us free!
With or without the gift of poetry or speech, this Thanksgiving may all our grateful hearts Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything (Ephesians 5:19-20).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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