Tomorrow our nation will observe Memorial Day, a national holiday. It is observed each year on the last Monday in the month of May. The holiday, formerly known as Decoration Day, commemorates military personnel - men and women - who have died while in service to the United States of America.
The holiday was first established to honor the many Union soldiers who gave their lives during the Civil War. One historian states that the first Memorial Day celebration was observed in 1865 in Charleston, SC by thousands of liberated slaves and Union soldiers at the site of a former Confederate prison camp and mass grave for Union soldiers who died while in confinement. The official birthplace of the holiday is Waterloo, NY where it was first celebrated on May 5, 1866. After World War I the focus of the day was expanded to honor all who died in any war or military action in the history of our nation.
The original purpose of Memorial Day was serious and probably evoked considerable solemnity. It was common on that day for people to visit grave sites of loved ones who had died in military service. One wonders how many people today, especially younger generations, really know the significance of the holiday. Today, Memorial Day seems to be more about having a day off work, going on a picnic with the family and watching the Indianapolis 500. While those might be worthy endeavors, the real purpose of the day is what makes it special. Forgetting completely what Memorial Day is about leaves us more vulnerable to would-be enemies who would put us under their subjection.
Today is Sunday, the first day of the week, the Lord's Day! It is a Memorial Day that far surpasses in significance the holiday our nation will observe tomorrow. This is a day when the Christians who make up the Lord's church are supposed to gather together to worship God and remember the death of our Savior on the cross. He made the ultimate sacrifice, giving His life on that cross for the guilt of our sins. He put His life on the line and paid our debt in order that we could have the opportunity to be set free from the slavery and condemnation of sin. He died to give us a chance to live eternally.
In partaking of the Lord's Supper we memorialize His death. In the bread we see the nails driving through His hands and feet and the spear piercing His side. In the cup we see the blood that was shed from His body while hanging on that cross. Today, each Lord's Day, is a sacred occasion that deserves our serious consideration and respect. On this day we honor our Savior in His death for us and also announce to the world that He is risen and that he is coming again.
Unfortunately, as with that other Memorial Day, many seem to have forgotten the real significance of the Lord's Day. For many it too has become simply a day off work, a day to sleep late, to work in the yard, play golf, go to the park or to pursue any of a hundred other personal endeavors. Forgetting what this day is all about leaves us vulnerable to the most dangerous of all enemies, the devil himself, and our careless forgetfulness opens the door to once again becoming his slaves, bound by the chains of sin. We need to remember!
Gary L. Hutchens