Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell…Freedom From Want

    This year, we were dismayed to find Christmas merchandise and decorations going up in a number of stores, even while their shelves still overflowed with Halloween “stuff.” Did you notice? Some stores even played Christmas music. Now, with Thanksgiving only two weeks away, you’d hardly know the beloved November holiday is still important to most Americans.

    It seems we are being whipped into a spending frenzy even before the Thanksgiving turkey has a chance to cool. The “attitude of gratitude” that ought to prepare the way for a thoughtful, thankful celebration of Christ’s birth is being replaced with a frantic culture of greed and “have to do’s.”

    Well, I’m trying hard to keep priorities straight in spite of all that, and I know that many of my readers are doing the same. The music of the season can help us. Here’s a familiar old hymn, often sung at Thanksgiving time, both at family meals and at religious services. Maybe you’d like to add the song to your celebration this year.

We Gather Together…Theodore Baker, 1894

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!

  “We Gather Together” was first written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in a war of national liberation. Under the Spanish king, Dutch Protestants had been forbidden to gather for worship.

  The modern English text was written in 1984 by Theodore Baker, and first appeared in an American hymnal in 1903. By World War I, Americans could see themselves in the hymn, and even more so during World War II, when “the wicked oppressing” were understood to include Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. I love that the lyrics of this song are particularly appropriate because we’ve just celebrated Veterans’ Day and the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifices.

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