As we approach the birthday of our nation next Wednesday, I ask each of you to think about what July 4th means to you. When I was a young boy, our town just outside of Akron, Ohio, had a parade in the morning. I remember the creative floats, cotton candy, and snow cones just to name a few memories. At a young age, I wasn't really sure what the day meant, but all of the festivities seemed like a lot of fun.
The years passed, I grew older (but not too old) and my understanding of Independence Day evolved a little more each year. The concept of freedom, "Sweet Freedom" as the old Michael McDonald song harmonizes, became the identity of July 4th. Then, as my education advanced, I learned of the infinite amount of sacrifices that were made by the men, women and children in the mid-to-latter 18th century to secure the freedom that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted today. One of the key victories earned while the United States was breaking away from England was the freedom to express religious beliefs without persecution. Upon becoming a new country, numerous Christian denominations emerged in the USA, thus allowing for varying styles of worship. Of course, 242 years later, the 50 states plus Puerto Rico, American Samoa and other US-affiliated territories are blessed with a plethora of Christian and other religious institutions in which to worship our Lord.
Sure, we celebrate the Fourth of July as the day the Declaration of Independence was signed and our nation began to form its identity. However, from my perspective, July 4th is a day we recognize all those unnamed people who made the selfless sacrifice in order for future generations to enjoy the freedom that they never had.
As we celebrate the blessings of freedom, it is important to remember the divine gift of sacrifice that our Savior, Jesus Christ gave to all of humanity for our salvation. The forgiveness of our sins - our freedom to walk through the heavenly gates into eternal life with our Lord - was the ultimate gift of sacrifice.
"Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations..." Luke 24:46-47
In recognition of the sacrifices made by our forefathers and foremothers for our mortal freedoms in the 21th century United States, let us remember that it is through God's ultimate sacrifice, that all of our freedoms are made possible. As we gather with our families, friends, and loved ones to witness the vast array of fireworks that cap off the Fourth of July, let us thank our Lord through prayer for the many who sacrificed for our freedom, offer prayers for those still seeking freedom, and shout a spirited "thank you" to our Lord for the unconditional love of Jesus Christ!
And from the lyrics of Lee Greenwood, God Bless the USA!
Have a great 4th!