Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why July 4 celebrations set off rockets in my soul

The familiar shuffle of a fireworks rocket shooting out of a tube and into the sky filled the night air. Light streaked from the rocket’s tail. Although I expected it, I gasped with delight when it exploded into gigantic circles of color, accompanied by a symphony of booms.

      Being a journalist, however, changed the way I look at everything. I’d interviewed one of the pyrotechnics fellows who set up the displays and wondered where he was and if everything was going well. I knew dangerous and even fatal accidents sometimes occur.

      Then I asked myself, “How many thousand dollars did the city say they would spend on the July 4 event?”

      Obviously other viewers were having more fun than I. But being a newspaper reporter and writer isn’t all bad. Asking questions, especially “Who? What? Where? Why? How?” enhances my life. Not the questions themselves, but the answers.

      For instance, I’ve done stories and commentary about liberty, the lack of it, or the powers that be that would like to destroy it, so that readers would understand our joy and why fireworks is the way we’ve celebrated freedom from the beginning.
      John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, about the rejoicing he expected to result from the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “The second day of July, 1776,” (he was off a couple of days from the completed signing and the day chosen to observe it) “will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
In 1777, the first anniversary of the signing was celebrated with an official dinner for the Continental Congress and 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks.

We hadn’t done all that today, but I could hear a band playing patriotic music. The crowd around me took up the tune and “God Bless America” echoed from the throats of the thousands gathered on the hillside as well as from the instruments. A soloist earlier sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the phrase “land of the free,” reminded me of the high cost of freedom.
A significant number of those who left England and sailed to America fled because of religious persecution. During the trip and hardships of establishing homes and finding food in a new land, many died—including children. But they were free to worship as they wished.

But freedom wasn’t guaranteed. As the colonies grew they became linked with each other and a mercantile system established based on the exchange and sale of goods. By the end of the 1700s, England officials realized they had the makings of an overseas empire and the British eventually gained control, even taxing Americans.

The freedoms so many coveted were becoming lost in the hours of toiling to carve out livelihoods. There was no guidance and even the Pilgrims tried to make everyone in their colonies Puritans.


Then the RevolutionaryWar and an important document—The Declaration of Independence—changed everything.

Now as we sat on property owned by the state of Colorado, I remembered “God bless America” resonating in the night air, thankful for the document that begins, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and so assume among the Power of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them, a descent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”
Liberty. We rejoice because of freedom. Rockets explode in our souls as we thank God for freedom eo worship God as we believe His Word instructs us; we are free to teach our children and our children’s children our beliefs; pursue our own dreams; and respect these rights in others.


No wonder we spend money on fireworks that are here only for a moment. The joy of freedom doesn’t diminish with the grand finale, the fading of the brilliant displays and the last boom.
 The lights of liberty don’t blow away like the smoke with the wind.
We pack up our blankets, the cooler, and thread our way through the crowd to go home and scriptures run through my mind, “Stand therefore in the liberty where with Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yokes of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

  With God we not only are given choices, but we can be set free from the chains of sins and as newborn creations in Christ, we are set free from the “law of sin and death.”
Now that’s supernatural freedom. No wonder rockets seem to go off inside me at the thought. The death sentence is gone and I and my family will live forever. Sin is gone. Light sparks within me dynamiting away unbelief, fear, guilt, burdens, and joy unspeakable becomes reality.
Now that’s an even greater Independence Day.