Not surprisingly, right now I am thinking increasingly of the act, process, and journey of thanksgiving. It is an act in that it is something we do; however, it is also a process, much like that of using starters to make bread; a process activated … by the actions of another, by the recognition that nothing is owed us, by the awareness that we are the recipients of so much.
It is also a journey … one often initiated externally, with the influence of a parent or caregiver as they teach us manners. Sometimes it was a clear instruction,”Say thank you, honey.” At other times it came in the form of a prompt, “What do you say when someone gives you something or says something nice, sweetheart?” Over time, and with repeated lessons, the expression of thanks becomes ingrained, almost an automatic response. But there can be moments in the journey that we are awakened to the truth that thanksgiving can be intentional, not influenced by anything but our will. We can choose to give thanks. We can choose to be thankful in every circumstance. In every situation. In every season of life. In everything. With His help.
The hymn “Now thank we all our God,” was written by Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran minister, at the end of the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War was characterized by indescribable suffering. The hymn is described as one of abiding trust and gratitude toward God, and a testament of Martin Rinkart’s faith. (Click here for a more thorough history of the man and the hymn).
Here are the lyrics:
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.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd 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!
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.