Having been raised overseas on the mission field, I am still getting used to American holidays and celebrations—the profusion of flags, bunting, banners, catalogues, and toenail polish emblazoning our country’s colors in every direction. This year I was able to take part in decorating my church for its God and Country Sunday celebration. As I stapled up bunting and washed windows and hung banners, I marveled that so much time and effort were being poured into one day that would commemorate one occasion enacted 240 years ago. Flipping through my wardrobe looking for a patriotic outfit, I inwardly protested the cultural edict that one MUST wear red, white, and blue for the 4th of July. Why ransack stores and wreck one’s sanity just for the achievement of displaying all three colors one month out of the year?
It’s not that I am unpatriotic. I love America and all it was founded to stand for. I love our flag, its colors, its meaning. I just don’t happen to be a demonstrative person who makes much of occasions. But according to God’s Word, I ought to care about occasions.
Exodus 12:14 “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”
Apparently God thinks memorials are important to keep occasions in memory.
Proverbs 22:28 “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”
Why do we celebrate holidays? To bring to remembrance the ancient landmarks which our fathers have set, so we do not neglect or remove them.
Exodus 13:8, 14 “And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt…And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
July 4th is a holiday because on that day the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted, severing our nation’s political ties with the King of England. Much like the children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, we removed ourselves from the slavery of a despot to “assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” Not with the attitude of rebellious children, but of mature adults, taking responsibility for themselves when authorities would reduce them to children again. “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Now, to create a memorial of this event, we take a pause from everyday life to gather with family or friends around food and fireworks. In this age of federal holidays and commercialized patriotism, it’s easy to get caught up in the festivities and not remember their significance. Why do our decorations fly the Stars and Stripes instead of the United Kingdom’s Union Jack? Why are we eating hamburgers and hot dogs instead of fish and chips or Cornish pasties? Because we are Americans. And we could not have become so without the Declaration of Independence.
How long has it been since you read the Declaration in full? Sung a patriotic song and thought about the words? Wondered what the colors of our flag stand for? All these things make us distinctly American. Let’s remember how our country started so we can finish strong.
Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”