Why Do We Say, “Happy Memorial Day?”

Hundreds of thousands of mostly men, and some women, have died in combat on behalf of the United States of America.  And, many brave men risked their lives and fortunes just to even try this experiment in world history that we call “America.”

This is what Memorial Day is about – Remembering the insanely high price of our lifestyles and political system and freedoms.  We memorialize our fallen heroes, and we should thank God for continuing to “shed His grace on thee,” in spite of our free-fall into gross immorality.

People often confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  I had several people thank me for my service to our country today.  I am humbled and try to receive the thanks with the right spirit.  But, technically speaking, Memorial Day is not about me or any living veteran precisely because we are alive.

So, today, I hope at some point you stopped the cookout for a brief moment of reflection.  I hope you spoke to your children of the “real cost” of apple pie and burgers on the grill and open prayers to bless the meal, and picnic tables lined with food.  If you did not, be sure to make up for it tomorrow by reminding them of the little girls and boys whose Daddies never came home from war.  Remind them of the young wife who gave up her high school sweetheart to a sniper’s bullet in a far-off land.  Remind them of the brother’s life-long grief over his older brother, his hero, arriving home in a flag-draped coffin.  And, in our culture today, you’ll also need to remind them of the child whose Mommy gave up her life for our freedoms too.

Very sobering, isn’t it?  So many sons given.  

I heard a widow of the War in Afghanistan say on the news today that she did not think it made sense for Americans to say “Happy Memorial Day.”  When you think about it, she’s right!

Then again, she’s only partly right.  For, you see, all happiness comes with a price.  Our Founding Fathers wanted to form a nation that held as a core value, “the pursuit of happiness.”  But many of the signers of that very document paid for that right to pursue joy with their lives and fortunes.

So, in an odd sort of way, it is OK for us to wish one another a “Happy Memorial Day.”  So long as we stop and ponder the price of our happiness, and then thank God for it.  We often say “freedom is not free.”  So true.  But what we seem to have forgotten in America today is that happiness is not free, either.

Happiness, true joy, has sailed across nearly three centuries to get to us on a river of blood.

This all reminds me of the high price of my eternal joy.  If my happiness as an American came to me at the cost of blood, how much more costly is my joy in the living God?

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult [rejoice exceedingly] in hope of the glory of God . . . for while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:1-6).

Hallelujah!  Happy Memorial Day!!   

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