I trust you are doing well and looking forward to Sunday.
Christmas carols will always be everyone’s favorite holiday songs—partly because there are so many good ones, and partly because we sing them for almost a whole month at the “most wonderful time of the year.” Easter hymns are not far behind. But what about Thanksgiving hymns?
Most of the traditional Thanksgiving hymns—like “Come, Ye Thankful People Come,” or “Now Thank We All Our God”—do not have any historical connection to the Pilgrims. However, there is one hymn that speaks directly to the context of religious persecution and may even have been a hymn the Pilgrims sang.
“We Gather Together” is a well-known Christian hymn that Americans often sing around the time of Thanksgiving. The melody goes at least as far back as the sixteenth century when Dutch Protestants defeated their Spanish oppressors at the Battle of Turnhout in January 1597. This famous victory was marked by the singing of a new anthem to an old tune: “We Gather Together” (“Wilt heden nu treden”), sung to the folk tune Kremser.
The Words of this 3 stanza hymn are:
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, wast at our side; all glory be Thine!
We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Following the Battle of Turnhout, Dutch Protestants were finally able to have their own free worship gatherings. “We Gather Together” soon became a popular patriotic hymn, first appearing in print in 1626.
“We Gather Together” has remained a favorite Thanksgiving hymn because it is honest about the struggles of life. The Christian life is always a battle, and the thanks we give to God always come from the front lines of spiritual warfare. It is always “thro’ tribulation” that a Christian congregation perseveres each year to Thanksgiving. Then as we gather together we pray, “O Lord, make us free!”
As you think about this hymn, don't forget about the opening line: "We gather together!"
See you this Sunday in person or online
In the light of His glory and grace,