When was the last time you heard a new Thanksgiving hymn? There are the old standards that many of us recognize, perhaps from our childhoods: “We Gather Together”, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”, “Now Thank We All Our God”. But since Thanksgiving is mostly a single weekend observance – and sadly, one that is overshadowed now by “Black Friday” and the start of Christmas shopping season – it’s rare we hear a new take on Thanksgiving songs. The lyrics of the traditional hymns are beautiful, the melodies memorable and it’s all so, well, comfortable. Nothing wrong with that.
Just a few days ago, however, I read in Psalm 96: “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.” Since I’m no composer/songwriter, what would that look like for me? How could I sing a “new song” to thank God for all my blessings? I decided to look past the familiar first verses of these old songs to the second verses, to consider where the hymn writers went with them next. It was a great exercise in examining things a little differently and perhaps more deeply.
Here’s an example. Verse 2 of “Now Thank We All Our God”, a song written in the late 1500s, says:
O may this bounteous God
Thro’ all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed 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.
The evidence is clear here that God is a bounteous God – His presence, His peace, His grace, His guidance and His deliverance; all are listed among His blessings to make the case for His generosity. (And I love the reference to being perplexed!) The songwriter encompasses the full span of our human experience: “all our life”, “in this world and the next”. What a wonderful reminder to keep the long view and remain joyful!
How about you? What is your favorite Thanksgiving hymn? How does the second (or third or fourth) verse help you to worship God with a “new song” this Thanksgiving?