I have celebrated American Independence Day in a variety of venues and ways. In 1978, I sang with a group as part of the National Celebration on the Washington Mall. It was not televised then as it is now, but the newspaper said that three hundred thousand were there. In other years I have mingled with hundreds of others to watch civic fireworks displays. Last year, I ran in an overseas shadow race of the Peachtree Road Race 10k in Kabul, Afghanistan. I've worshiped with other Christians, often engaging in meaningful times of reflective prayer and singing when Independence Day fell on a Sunday or Wednesday. This year, I remembered that the previous three days were the 150th anniversary of a great battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that shaped the definition of freedom in the United States. Abraham Lincoln's speech dedicating a memorial to that battle included these words:
"It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Amen, President Lincoln. His words define also why we celebrate, and why we should remember what we celebrate, on Independence Day.