German pastor Martin Rinkart served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine. The year 1637 was the beginning of the Great Pestilence. There were four ministers in Eilenburg at the time, but one abandoned his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two.
As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for 40 to 50 persons a day–some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services. Yet, while living in a world dominated by death,
Rinkart wrote this timeless prayer of thanksgiving for his children:
Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done, In whom this world rejoices.
Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.
Imagine how hard this first Thanksgiving had to be for Martin. Pain puts Thanksgiving into proper perspective. When things are not perfect and beyond our human control, which if we are honest most everything is beyond our control, we have to admit our need for God’s grace. Dr. Martin Luther’s last words from the pulpit were: “We are all beggars. That is for sure.” Thanksgiving Day offers us an opportunity to stop and reflect on all the blessings God has given us. Blessings like the preciousness of life, the strength of our relationships, and the generosity of God’s blessings that flow all around us.
Oh, may this bounteous God through 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 guard us through all ills in this world, till the next! (verse 2)
To develop a habit of thanksgiving one must practice having the attitude of gratitude in all circumstances. Gratitude requires being consciously grateful for every blessing of life. It requires being thankful for the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, who in His mercy sent His son as a ransom for many. God desires to restore us and reunite us with Him again for all eternity.
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 Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. (Verse 3)
Courtland Sayres one night began to consider his deep appreciation for the goodness of life. Then he wrote these words:
Five thousand breathless dawns all new;
Five thousand flowers fresh in dew;
Five thousand sunsets wrapped in gold;
One million snowflakes served ice cold;
Five quiet friends; one baby’s love;
One white mad sea with clouds above;
One hundred music—haunted dreams
Of moon—drenched roads and hurrying streams,
Of prophesying winds and trees,
Of silent stars and drowsing bees;
One June night in a fragrant wood;
One heart that loved and understood.
I wondered when I waked at day,
How … in God’s name … I could pay.
May you find joy and have a heart of gratitude this Thanksgiving.
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The Christian "movers and shakers" from past centuries have a lot of relevant things to say to us today!