This Hymn Isn't Strictly for the Thanksgiving Holiday


The hymns of thanksgiving are a rare and often times overlooked treasure in the season of dying leaves, gusty winds and family gatherings. I hope you will take some time this year to sing the songs of thanksgiving with the saints of the ages who have gone before us and with your loved ones gathered around your table.

One of the most powerful hymns of the Thanksgiving season is, "We Gather Together." This powerful anthem was not actually composed by the Pilgrims, nor was it written specifically for our symbolic American holiday, even though it is traditionally sung only during the days leading up to the fourth Thursday in November.

This beloved hymn of the church was written in 1597 when the Dutch were engaged in a war of national liberation against the king and forces of Spain. The phrase "We gather together" resonated deeply within the hearts of the Dutch citizens because Dutch Protestants were not allowed to gather to worship under the Spanish king. It seems to me as if the phrase, "We gather together" has as much power today as it did over 400 years ago. We are still a people who long to gather in community and in worship but the events of this year have often prevented it.

In order to help Holland acknowledge their turbulent past yet look ahead to a promising future the words of this triumphant hymn were penned by a young tax collector, Adrianus Valerius:

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"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."

When this hymn was written, it was the cruel rule of the Spanish government to which the Christians in Holland were fighting against. These 16th century believers fought for the right to simply gather and worship; that same fight continues for those of use who live during the 20th century. We have been held hostage by a fierce pandemic.

"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, was at our side, all glory be Thine!"

What was true for Christians four centuries ago is still assured for us today. Our God is always beside us to guide us and He will indeed maintain us through all of life's battles. We must remind ourselves, just like those men and women of faith sang about so long ago, as long as the Lord is at our side, we are winning! He gives the victory to His very own children. The government doesn't usher in victory nor do rulers or circumstances. We experience a miraculous, supernatural victory this side of heaven because of the Lord who is at our side!

"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!"

The lyrics of this beloved hymn end on a note of high praise to a God who is always in control and whose Word is forever true. He is our leader and our defender through all of life's battles, whether His children battle against a despotic government as did the saints in the 15th century or a worldwide pandemic as we are struggling with today.

What have you gone through this year? Has your life been devastated by disappointment and by losses? Have your joy and hope been taken captive in this momentous year of 2020?

I have found that when in a battle, it is the most appropriate time to sing, and to sing loudly! Battles do not have the power to diminish the human song of thanksgiving! Battles should always fan the flames of honest gratitude and cause the melody triumphant to burst forth in spite of tragedy.

I pray that you will sing with the pilgrims of old and with me, "So from the beginning the fight we were winning, Thou, Lord, was at our side, all glory be Thine!"

"Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise" (Ps. 35:2).

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