It is the 8th of December 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The Year Was 1649.
In Russia, the time of the Serfs began. New laws not repealed for almost 200 years legalized slavery in the Tsardom. In China, the Ming dynasty was slowly crumbling, and the mighty Qing dynasty was ascendant. Similar changes were taking place in Brazil, where the locals were showing the Dutch the door. In the Philippines, the natives revolted against Spanish rule, and the English rebelled so hard this year on their island that the King lost his head.
And 1649 was a watershed year across Continental Europe. History books continue to use this year as a starting point for understanding Europe's history up through 1789. 1649 is year one for many because it was in 1648 that the 30 Years War came to an end, and the Reformation era was over. Of course, all these delineations and demarcations are somewhat arbitrary. But when Confessionalization led to the outbreak of war, the end of the war marks a fitting cap for the Confessional era.
In Germany, the Reformation dates to Luther's Wittenberg moment, but it wasn't until 1523 that the first church officially broke with Rome. This was St. Anne's church in Eisleben, a church, and town heavily influenced by Martin Luther.
In 1617, a deacon at that church wrote a series of Reformation dramas to be performed for the one century anniversary of the movement. The author of these plays was a local boy, the son of a poor copper miner. Martin Rinkart had gifts for theology, drama, and music, and thus despite being poor, he was educated at local schools and eventually studied for the ministry. Rinkart was called to be a Deacon in Eisleben and eventually archdeacon in the nearby walled city of Eilenburg.
It was only one year after the Reformation's centenary in 1617 that the 30 Years War broke out. Rinkart, serving in a church in Eilenburg, spent the War dealing with an influx of refugees, the plague, and the Swedes. The walled city made it a choice location for refugees but then also for the plague. Rinkart was serving in 1637 when roughly 8000 people died. Two of the town's pastors fled, leaving Rinkart to perform over 4,000 funerals in one year. And despite this, Rinkart is probably best known for a hymn he wrote in these dark days:" Nun danket alle Gott," known to many as "Now Thank We All Our God." It was put to music by Johann Cruciger and translated by Catherine Winkworth. Rinkart stayed at his post in the church throughout the 30 Years War, which ended, as noted, in 1648. Wearied from his service but unwilling to leave the church, Martin Rinkart died on this, the 8th of December in 1649.
The reading for today comes from Rinkart, the first two stanzas of the hymn.
Now thank we all our God,
With heart, and hands, and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In Whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mother's arms
Hath bless'd us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessèd peace to cheer us:
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplex'd,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 8th of December 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who wishes I wouldn't slander the Swedes again with just a passing mention. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.