Approximately 375 years ago, a little known German pastor named Martin Rinkart lived in the walled town of Eilenburg. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) with all its horrors was fought in central Europe but spread to almost every European country. It was a terribly long war which decimated huge areas of many European countries as it was fought from countryside to town from one country to another. Famine and plague were rampant. And Europe became a seething mass of refugee-fugitives which overcrowded small towns and cities. Eilenburg was overrun by such refugees.
At this time there were four pastors in Eilenburg. One got out of town abandoning his parish for a healthier place for himself and his family - never to return. Pastor Rinkart presided over the funerals of the other two. As the only pastor left, he often conducted funeral services for as many as 50 persons in a day - some almost 4500 funerals in all. In May 1638 Pastor Rinkart buried his own wife. By year's end so many died that they had to be buried in trenches without services simply to get the bodies out of the way before more plague could ensue.
In the midst of all this horror and loss, Martin Rinkart wrote Now Thank We All Our God:
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 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.
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.
--Martin Rinkart, 1638
He wrote this magnificent hymn for his children to say at bedtime each night. He wanted to focus their motherless hearts on the wonder of their God even in the midst of such horror and pain! From their pain and need, we now have this wonderful hymn that still remains as a memorial and enduring testimony of gratitude and hope!
Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z2_JLqOjNY#