Give thanks before Thanksgiving meal

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 23, 2013

When your family and friends gather together this Thanksgiving, consider beginning a new tradition. Sing hymns to give thanks, starting with the blessing before dinner.

Our family sometimes sings the Doxology together before eating. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

An Anglican bishop named Thomas Ken wrote that prayer more than 300 years ago. It is said that he sang it every morning as part of his personal devotion time.  Orphaned as a small child, he was raised by his sister and her husband. He attended Oxford University, and was ordained as a minister in 1662. Though he was later imprisoned in the Tower of London with five other clergymen who incurred the wrath of King James II, he still praised God.

Following dinner, before anyone gets up from the table, ask each person share one thing for which he or she is thankful. Consider saying or singing the chorus of this familiar hymn after the last person shares their thankful thought: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”  Johnson Oatman, Jr. first published this hymn in 1897. Oatman could not sing very well, but he was a prolific hymn writer of 5,000 songs. This hymn took on new meaning for his family after Sept. 11. His great-grandson lived six blocks from the World Trade Center and survived the terrorist attack.

Another well-known hymn to include in your Thanksgiving celebration was written by Thomas Chisholm, who was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. He became a Methodist minister, but had to resign after one year due to his fragile health. Chisholm began writing poems, though he seldom received any money for them.  At age 57, after reading about God’s faithfulness in Lamentations 3:22-23, Thomas Chisholm wrote these words:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided – Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”

The Apostle Paul teaches us to speak “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

You don’t have to have a beautiful voice to sing your thanks to God, just make a joyful noise!