(Editor’s note: For thirty years, Chicago Tribune columnist Joan Beck annually penned a wonderful essay of thanks. It was part song, part poetry, and a lovely grocery list of God’s blessings in the year nearly passed. Beck died in 1998. Here we offer our own humble version, with thanks for her example of gratitude.)
As we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings,
396 years after the first Thanksgiving Day,
we are grateful, dear God
For pilgrim fathers and mothers
who survived privation and dismay,
only to see your rich blessings
on the other side of suffering.
Their spiritual journey reached fulfillment on these shores;
Brave Pilgrims in a fearful new world,
Found welcome and home.
Now thank we all our God—
For that signal year 1517,
When an agitated priest sounded a protest,
Nailing his complaints to the church house door.
The echo of his hammer rings today.
We are grateful inheritors of the Reformation,
that the just shall live by faith alone;
For grace that grants to us salvation
offered freely but in Christ alone
my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.
Here we are, five centuries past, and the Protest lives.
The freedoms won by our spiritual ancestors are still protected;
We are grateful for the Constitution that lets us worship freely—
even though our theology differs,
And to speak freely—even when others object.
O God, our help in ages past, our help for years to come…
For responders first on scene in crisis and storm,
That in their service we see the Ultimate Rescuer.
For those who come in the second wave;
“Yellow Shirts” and the Relief they bring,
the love they extend for the One who gave
his very life the dying to save,
and for standing for us all, we sing,
You’re a good, good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are,
it’s who you are.
Give thanks with a grateful heart…
For text and Skype and e-mail too—
(I may never have said that before)—
because it keeps our loved ones close
though they live on distant shore.
For faithful companions for life’s journey
and a church that proves they’re truly family
in our time of need,
and for man’s best friend
who loves us steadily to the end
(not only because we feed them)
For summer tomatoes and cornbread dressing,
Folded hands and children’s blessing,
The Spirit’s whisper in times distressing;
For “miracle drugs” and miracles real,
For doctors, nurses, and the God who heals,
for the will to get up and the desire to soldier on,
for endurance and insurance and the blessed assurance
that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media