I have an uncanny ability to make life about me. This is not something I have to work hard at. Selfishness comes naturally. And holidays are no different. They are usually planned excuses for me to continue this trend – a day set aside for me. Sure, I may give some passing remarks about this or that, but I rarely press in to do the hard work of remembrance. I drift toward lazy thinking rather than thoughtful consideration. I settle for superficial musings rather than mining the depths of significance and sacrifice. Sadly, I don’t think I am alone in this struggle.
Consider the two most significant holidays on the church calendar: Christmas and Easter. During the Christmas season, we fight against the temptation of consumerism and materialism. Our celebration of the resurrection competes with Easter egg hunts, Sunday at Augusta or the welcomed springtime weather. So if we take the two most significant holidays on the calendar and, more often than not, make them about us, then you can be sure that other holidays will be little more than apple pie and a day off.
Honestly, what did you do to commemorate and remember the struggle for racial harmony that MLK lost his life for? As a believer in Jesus Christ, should we not echo that we too have a dream? Is this not a day that we have the opportunity to reflect and remember the plight of the oppressed and teach our children that all colors bleed into one? What about July 4th? Will we remember the grace of our nation’s independence and the cost of freedom? Will we remember the countless number of men and women who gave up their lives to honor, protect and serve ours? Or will it be more about boating, lounging by the pool and fireworks?
The calendar has built in days to reflect and remember. They are placeholders designed as teaching opportunities for the next generation. They are designated stops in our schedules to remember. What a gift of grace that we often rush right through. This doesn’t mean that all holidays are created equal or that cookouts, extended weekends and gifts are bad. It does mean that we have an innate tendency to make life about us. But holidays are opportunities to turn our focus toward something greater, something communal, something significant.
So don’t cheapen this Independence Day by simply making it about burgers and beer. Dare to discuss the realities of sacrifice, self-denial and honor. Plant seeds about the cost of freedom in the hearts of your sons and daughters. Consider how you might use the opportunity to help your children think about the grace we enjoy as a country. Pray for those who do not enjoy the gift of freedom. How can this day serve as a conversation starter with those you celebrate with? Help your family to dream a little bigger and expect a little more.
What a gift we have in a day set aside to focus on freedom. But the freedom we enjoy in this country is simply a taste of the greater freedom that any and all who love and trust in the Lord Jesus experience. The Fourth of July is a springboard into the greater, more significant and global reality of freedom in Christ. Think about it. Craft the moment. Relish in the good gift. A holiday is more than a day off; it is a directed day of purposeful remembrance. Don’t waste this holiday.