This Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. It is also known as the “Unofficial Start of Summer” as most Americans have the day off from work and school. It is common to grill meat outside and have friends and family over; in general, have a good time.
And there’s nothing wrong with this. I’ll be doing this with my family and we all look forward to it every year. We’ll be grilling steaks and potatoes, having cake decorated as an American Flag. I’ll probably play catch with my sons, definitely lounge around the backyard and enjoy the day.
But I will also share with my sons what Memorial Day is really for – the reason we have this day in our nation’s calendar.
It began as “Decoration Day” by freed negro slaves in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. They had created a cemetery near the place where many Union prisoners of war had died and were buried in a mass grave. Out of gratitude – it is said – of the soldiers’ sacrifice for their freedom, they reinterred the bodies and decorated the graves with flowers.
The following year cities in the Northern United States began to hold what would become yearly observances of memorial and decoration of those who had died during the United States Civil War. After World War II, Decoration Day became more commonly known as Memorial Day and in the 1960’s it was officially designated as such by an act of Congress.
Today there are no survivors of the Civil War nor the Spanish-American War. There are also no living veterans of World War I. The last veteran died in 2012.
The veterans of World War II have reached their late 80’s and older.
For World War I and all previous wars, they are truly second-hand history for us. World War II and more recent wars are still “memories.”
We must never forget what these men and women did to ensure our freedom. I say we should also thank God for their sacrifice, especially those who gave their lives during the conflicts. And that is what Memorial Day is for.
Remembering is a biblical thing. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He celebrated remembrances such as Passover and Purim. In the “Law” as recorded in Deuteronomy, God instructed His people to remember what they have gone through to get where they are now and to pass on those memories to their children and their children’s children (Deuteronomy 6:7).
This is a basic to the Christian faith: that what is believed about Jesus Christ is passed on to others, to teach and confess it to especially to children.
Memorial Day is a great opportunity to do both: to share a bit of the history of our country and to share our faith in Christ. I pray that you will do this and also have a blessed Memorial Day.
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