WE GATHER TOGETHER
Translation by Edward Kremser, 1838–1914
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)
Thanksgiving is not merely a day to be observed once each year; for the Christian it must be a way of daily living.
No Thanksgiving Day gathering would be complete without the singing of this traditional Dutch hymn. Today we sing this hymn as an expression of thanks to God as our defender and guide throughout the past year. The text was originally written by an anonymous author at the end of the 17th century to celebrate the Dutch freedom from the Spanish overlords, who had been driven from their land. Freedom was now theirs, both politically from Spain and religiously from the Catholic church.
“We Gather Together” must be understood and appreciated in its historical setting. For many years, Holland had been under the scourge of Spain, and in 1576, Antwerp was captured and sacked by the Spanish armies. Again, in 1585, it was captured by the Spanish and all of the Protestant citizens were exiled. Many other Dutch cities suffered similar fates. During the 17th century, however, there developed in Holland a time of great prosperity and rich post-reformation culture. Commerce was expanded around the world, and this was the period of great Dutch art, with such well-known painters as Rembrandt and Vermeer. In 1648 the Spanish endeavors to control Holland were finally destroyed beyond recovery.
One can readily see the references to these historical events throughout the hymn’s text: “The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,” as well as the concern in the final stanza that God will continue to defend—“and pray that Thou still our defender will be.”
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 aide 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!
For Today: Psalm 5:11, 12; John 16:33; Romans 8:31; Hebrews 12:5–7
Share with others, perhaps your family members, how God has guided and protected your lives throughout this past year. Sing this hymn together before enjoying the Thanksgiving meal—