Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There is evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. It is likely that Memorial Day had many separate beginnings of spontaneous gatherings of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s, the general humane need to honor their dead. It was first observed nationwide on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National cemetery. It was after World War I that the nation began to celebrate Memorial Day not only honoring Americans who died fighting in the Civil War, but also honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. In 1971, congress passed the National Holiday Act that Memorial Day would be celebrated the last Monday in May.
This day of remembrance, which we celebrated yesterday, is observed to remind us that men and women are still giving their lives in battle that we may continue to enjoy freedom. Let us always remember that freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great price. John Quincy Adams speaks to the generations after him, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”
Of all the freedoms that we enjoy, the freedom of religion is one. We have the freedom to worship our Lord every Lord’s Day. Let us not abuse it. Let us never forget also the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. Freedom from the condemnation of sin. The apostle Paul reminds us, “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) The freedom we have in Christ Jesus was purchased with a great price. It cost Him His life on the cross.
Some have begun to congratulate themselves on their own achievements—to celebrate man, while relegating God to the “back shelf.” They forget to acknowledge God Who has made and preserved us as a nation. Let us not be guilty of doing that. When God fades from a nation’s conscience, it will begin to justify almost anything. Former president Ronald Reagan said, “When a nation forgets that it is, ‘one nation under God,’ It will be a nation gone under.”