When I think of Thanksgiving, I remember this song often sung at services. It was written in 1597 by a Dutch Christian, Adrianus Valerius, after a victory the Dutch had over the Spanish. Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather together for worship by the Spanish King, a freedom we take for granted here in the United States. But for many around the world today, the freedom to gather and praise is a luxury and often dangerous.
The Dutch brought the song to the USA but sang only psalms in their church services. Later they voted to include other songs of praise and this was the first hymn chosen for their new hymnal. In 1935 the song was included in the Methodist-Episcopal Church hymnal. The hymn spoke into the hearts of Americans during WWI and WWII when we felt oppressed by the “wicked.”
An interesting footnote included in Wikipedia is, “This hymn was sung at the Opening of the Funeral Mass for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The West Wing episode “Shibboleth” (season 2, episode 8 “Shibboleth”) alluded to the hymn, and it was played in the episode’s final scene (performed by the Cedarmont Kids.) The hymn is also usually sung by the Quartermaine family on the American soap opera General Hospital‘s annual Thanksgiving episode.”
As we listen to the words, may we join in thanks for the privilege to gather together this week for worship. May we say a prayer for those caught in political wars and the many fleeing to foreign borders due to persecution in their homes. May we remember those gathered in hospitals and places of care and those grieving the loss of “family” to gather with today. Lord, have mercy.