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HYMN for Thanksgiving 2023 Now Thank We All Our God

Danish: Nu takker alle Gud

German: Nun danket alle Gott

Icelandic: Nú gjaldi Guði þökk

Norwegian: Nå la oss takke Gud/ No takka alle Gud

Swedish: Nu tacka Gud, allt folk

Text: Martin Rinkart (1586-1649). Johann Crüger (1598-1664)

1 Now thank we all our God

with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices; who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

2 O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us, to keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills In this world in the next.

3 All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven the one eternal God, whom heaven and earth adore; for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.                         

Tr. Catherine Winkworth

Happy Thanksgiving to those readers in the USA! This is a time to sing thanks and there is no greater thanksgiving hymn than Now Thank we all our God. The hymn emerged from a very troubled time and reminds us again how important thanks are in any time.


Siege of Magdeburg 1631 where thousands lost their lives

The writer of this great hymn knew fear, if not his own, his people's. He lived much of his adult life during some of the worst years in European history—the Thirty Years War. A native of Eilenburg, in 1601 he went to the Thomas church school in Leipzig to be in the choir and then entered the University of Leipzig where he spent the next few years. He was called back to his hometown to be a pastor, but an enduring conflict between him and another made it impossible. Finally, he became deacon and cantor at St. Nicolas church in Eisleben, then at St. Anne’s church. In 1617 he was finally called to Eilenburg where he remained until his death.

In 1618, the Thirty Years’ War broke out and lasted until 1648. Eilenburg was a walled city, between Leipzig and Berlin, so it offered some relief from the raiding armies of Swedes that rampaged through the area between the years 1630-1635. Refugees crowded into the city to escape the conflict. Unfortunately, their crowding caused both famine and pestilence to break out. In 1637 bubonic plague devastated the city. The clergy in town all perished or fled and Rinkhart was the only one left to officiate at funerals which happened at the rate of 40 to 50 a day, among them his wife. At the end of the plague which lasted a few months he himself had buried over 4480 people. All told over 8000 people died from the plague. He also became ill but survived.

As he was recovering, a great famine struck during which time the Swedes attacked. Rinkhart did much to help his charges, risking his life and substance for his people. When the Swedish army besieged it demanding a high tribute, he led his starving people out to the general who relented when he saw their parlous condition and reduced the tribute money which Rinkhart mortgaged his house to pay. Even as he did much to alleviate the suffering, his superiors criticized his work. He died in 1649, a year after the Peace of Westphalia was announced. The exhausted people who had suffered for thirty years from the war and the accompanying pestilence, famine and violence, held services in their local churches to thank God with this hymn we think.

Rinkhart's hymn became traditional for the endings of conflicts and wars until the present. We can pray as we sing it this year in our homes that a witness as joyful and confident as this might emerge in our time! And maybe bring us peace. Even so, Now thank we all our God!


Martin Rinkhart

Rinkhart wrote the hymn around 1630 just as the Swedish armies started making their attacks on the German states. It was first published in his book of poems Jesus Hertz-Büchlein in 1636—and given the title "Table Prayer."

It did not receive its tune until Johann Crüger’s 1648 version of Praxis Pietatis Melica. Scholars are quite certain that the tune is by Crüger. Over time it began to be called the German Te Deum. It was sung at the celebration of the completion of the cathedral in Cologne and at the laying of the cornerstone of the Reichstag building in 1884.

The British and American people have used it for similar celebrations. Now it is one of the hymns associated with Thanksgiving, but also any other celebration which needs a song of Thanksgiving. Bach used the hymn in several works. We do not have the complete version of his cantata on the hymn, but we do have some of it. See below. A feast of possibilities!


Royal Albert Hall

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Uppsala Cathedral service for the ordination of a bishop in 2018

Marko Hakanpää Finnish organist playing Virgil Fox arrangement

Dresden Kreuzkor 800 Years celebration

Egil Hovland’s organ spectacular on the hymn

Den Danske Salmeduo

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