Should We Devote a Sunday To the Fourth of July and Other Holidays?
This past week social media was buzzing with comments and posts about celebrating and/or recognizing the Fourth of July as a part of Sunday morning worship gatherings. There are wide-ranging views (often generational) about what is appropriate when it comes to patriotism and Jesus. For example, some of the questions being volleyed back and forth are: “Should churches have patriotic services?” “Should there be an American Flag in the worship gathering space?” “Are we elevating country and civil religion over the kingship of Jesus?” These questions, like almost all things in this increasingly contentious culture, are not easily resolved.
In light of these questions, and others, here is an article that I found to be biblical and representative of how I see this increasingly sensitive conversation. But even this balanced article reveals the tension we find ourselves dealing with in regard to the place of national pride in the life of Christ-worshiping churches. Our temporal love of country should not divide the forever people of God and churches of Jesus Christ.
On top of all the theological and cultural arguments for and against recognizing a holiday like the Fourth of the July, there is a more practical concern that often goes unmentioned.
Do we really have enough time? Is this the best use of our Sunday mornings?
Even if a church wanted to recognize a day like the Fourth, or Memorial Day or any other special day, how would they squeeze them all in without squeezing out regular, through-the-Bible preaching? And how would they decide what is worthy of addressing and what is not?
Take this list of prominent calendar days and consider the sermons that could preached for each one.
- New Year’s Day – getting a new start and living for a greater purpose
- Sanctity of Life Sunday – whether born or unborn, all life matters
- Valentine’s Day – working on relationships and love
- Easter (Resurrection of Jesus Christ Day) – the resurrection changes everything
- Graduation Day (High School and University) – God has great plans for your life
- Mother’s Day – mothers are great and we all love them
- Memorial Day – thanks to the many who made sacrifices for our freedom, especially Jesus
- Father’s Day – dads need to get their acts together and lead
- Independence Day – thank God for this nation under God
- Labor Day – God made work and rest
- Thanksgiving Day – are you thankful? If not, then you are not in God’s will (1 Thess. 5:18)
- Christmas Day – Jesus was clothed in flesh to live with us that He might die for us
That’s 12 days. 12 is a nice number when talking about the twelve tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples, but not for topical preaching. If a preacher did a sermon for every significant holiday that meant something to someone, he would have to give up 12 sermons a year. That is 23% of the year.
Our Eagle Heights faith family usually acknowledge days like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and I am thankful for each of those days, because we should be thankful for our nation’s freedom and those God used to preserve it. But when I think about what the church is and why we gather, I would rather reserve special occasions and sermons for days that are explicitly Christian, or days that transcend our temporal county (Hebrews 13:14) – unless there is very special reason to do so. It is biblically hard to ignore Christmas and Easter, and Sanctity of Life Sunday is really about God’s creative rights and the dignity of every person He has created. And sometimes we will focus on Mother’s and Father’s Day, but we can’t do them all.
Please hear me loud and clear. I am thankful for my country and the men and women who have served and sacrificed. I love my mom and dad, and I hope the best for graduates. I also want everyone to be loved and keep their covenant of marriage, but I am committed first and foremost to the kingdom of King Jesus. We have 52 weeks a year to gather and I want to give those weeks to the most important person in the universe while being secondarily thankful for all the other good things we celebrate. Jesus and His agenda must always have first place, and everything else must bow to Him. Even our love of country and the holidays that remind us to honor and celebrate.