How do you celebrate the 4th of July?

What do you think of when you think of July 4? What do you tend to do on this day? What conversations tend to take place?

For those in the U.S.A. and Americans living around the world, July 4 (1776) is when we celebrate the founding of our nation. However the war which confirmed that we were free of British rule actually started in 1775 and lasted 8 years until it officially ended with the Treaty of Paris on September 4, 1783 and this treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress on January 14, 1784.

During these eight years of war, approximately 25,000 men, women and children lost their lives, with many more losing their homes, belongings and loved ones, many standing firm for what they saw as right, even when they knew that it would cost them everything.

What traditions do you have to celebrate July 4? (Or, for those who are from other nations, how do you remember the sacrifices that were likely made to form your country?)

As our family is looking to develop our traditions, here are some activities we are trying with those with whom we celebrate. We would love to hear your traditions as well.

Our goals are to:

  • Remember the sacrifices that were made
    • Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Reflect on the importance of standing for what is right, even when it takes great sacrifice and perseverance
    • Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.””
    • Acts 5:41-42, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”
  • Foster pride in our citizenship and identity (to point to our heavenly citizenship)
    • Whatever country one is from, if you don’t have a concept of being proud of your country, heritage and citizenship, which you can see and know, how are we to have an excitement for our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven (which as of yet, is unseen)?
      • Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”
  • Point to the power of God working to establish countries and install governments and peoples. 
    • These countries, governments and peoples may have fallen far from living for Christ and his intent, but they are still within God’s sovereign domain. 
      • Romans 13:1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Discussion questions

Rather than focusing on food, games and fun family events, it can be good to focus on the meaning and costs of living in a free country.

Questions can be put out on slips to draw, or any other way to direct the conversation to meaningful things. One or two good questions may be all that are needed to get the conversation going.

Here are some example questions:

  • What is something that you are proud of about America?
  • What is a reason that America is worth fighting for?
  • Sing national songs. After each song, ask: What do we see in this song about our country, the sacrifice of standing up in difficulty and the character and works of God?

Sing National Songs

Many of America’s National songs point to the willingness to fight for what is right, not for our own good, but to be willing to lose everything for the good of others. Many as well point to the goodness, power and sovereignty of God in the ways of men.

When singing the national songs, depending on the ages of the children, it is very powerful to either sing or read and reflect on the later verses, not only the first, and often more well known, verse.

“The Star-Spangled Banner (The National Anthem)”

1 O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

2 O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that has made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust.”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Battle Hymn of the Republic

1 Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Refrain:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

2 I have seen him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps.
I can read the righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on. [Refrain]

3 He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of all before his judgment seat.
O be swift, my soul, to answer him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on. [Refrain]

4 In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As he died to make us holy, let us live to make all free!
While God is marching on. [Refrain]

5 He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave;
He is wisdom to the mighty, he is honor to the brave.
So the world shall be his footstool, and the soul of wrong his slave.
Our God is marching on. [Refrain]

My Country ‘Tis of thee

1 My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring.

2 My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, Thy name I love; 
I love thy rocks and rills, Thy woods and templed hills; My heart with rapture thrills Like that above.

3 Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees Sweet freedom’s song:
Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake; Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.

4 Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of liberty, To thee we sing:
Long may our land be bright With freedom’s holy light; Protect us by thy might, Great God, our King.

America the Beautiful

1 O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

2 O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law.

3 O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, And ev’ry gain divine.

4 O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.

Fireworks, Sparklers, etc.

For the things that sparkle, make loud noises, etc., we don’t focus as much on adding meaning. They are more of a fun way to end the day as a family. We may point out how different it would feel if those were bombs going off, but even that is quick, with the focus being on just enjoying. For fireworks, we’ve found a spot between the cities where we can see several sets of fireworks going off surrounding us, while avoiding the crowds.

Conclusion

Our hope is to enjoy the time with family in this free country that many have lived and died for, while at the same time remembering the sacrifices that were made, while worshiping God who is sovereign over all things, and acknowledging the responsibility we have to boldly follow him, by his direction and strength, at all costs.

What ideas do you have for how to have the 4th be a meaningful day of remembrance and worship?

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