On December 9th, this tune first appeared, and I suggested that “later in the hymnal, we sing the usual words.” Well, that ‘later’ is today, and while the first three words are the same as the usual words, that is where ‘usual’ ends. And so I stand here in my wrongness being wrong.

And thank all that is holy that I am.

You see, the original words – from a Dutch hymn written in the 1600s, when they were fighting for their independence from the Spanish – are quite different:

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.

The original is a song of liberation, and gets tagged onto Thanksgiving only around World War I, as it appears in American hymnals only around 1903. The lyrics continue, by the way, in the same “God is on our side in this conflict” vein. Which makes its association with the Thanksgiving holiday even more awful. ::::shudder::::

So much for the usual song with the usual words.

Thankfully, two modern-day Unitarian Universalists, Dorothy Caiger Senghas and Rev. Robert Sengas, wrote new lyrics, for a Thanksgiving Sunday.

We gather together in joyful thanksgiving,
acclaiming creation, whose bounty we share;
both sorrow and gladness we find now in our living,
we sing a hymn of praise to the life that we bear.

We gather together to join in the journey,
confirming, committing our passage to be
a true affirmation, in joy and tribulation,
when bound to human care and hope — then we are free.

Now this is a Thanksgiving hymn I can get behind. Sure, it’s in the Hope section, but it is definitely worth putting on the Thanksgiving list too. And if you really want to do it right, sing the first verse as your opening words and the last verse as your closing words, because they would frame a message of gratitude calling us together and calling us onwards to the work of our faith.

I feel like I have been nothing but critical lately – which may be connected to my general mood or just because I hit some hymns that don’t work for me. But this morning – this weird morning that on Long Island is disturbingly warm (53 degrees) and blustery and elsewhere is bitterly cold and icy – I will dwell on the positive.

Well, for starters, the tune (Was Gott Thut – “what does God do?”) is a sweet German melody. It’s easy to sing and isn’t boring at all.

The lyrics suggest this would make a great sung grace at a big event like Thanksgiving – at least the third stanza. And, if for any reason For the Beauty of the Earth can’t fulfill its duties, we can call in this one as a substitute.

What’s interesting is that this was also in Songs for the Celebration of Life (the previous [blue] hymnal) – so Unitarian Universalists for a while have felt it necessary to have one and a spare when it comes to thanking the divine for nature with a hymn that features a repeating chorus.

So yay. It’s a spring hymn of thanks. Five days before Christmas during a terrible cold snap. Yay!

For flowers that bloom about our feet,
for tender grass so fresh and sweet,
for song of bird and hum of bee,
for all things fair we hear or see: Giver of all, we thank thee.

For blue of stream and blue of sky,
for pleasant shade of branches high,
for fragrant air and cooling breeze,
for beauty of the blooming trees: Giver of all, we thank thee.

For this new morning with its light,
for rest and shelter of the night,
for health and food, for love and friends,
for everything thy goodness sends: Giver of all, we thank thee.

Okay, so I really actually like that last verse. I’d sing that for grace on Christmas Day. In fact, I might.