Flags and fireworks will help Americans mark the nation’s 245th birthday this Sunday – an annual celebration of the United States’ bold declaration of independence and separation from Great Britain.
So many years removed from that hot and combative summer of 1776, it’s easy to take history for granted. That America emerged victorious in the Revolutionary War was no foregone conclusion. It very easily could have gone the other way – and it almost did numerous times.
The mighty British army had the colonists repeatedly on the ropes. From the battles at Lexington & Concord to Brooklyn Heights and Saratoga, George Washington’s Continental Army was often ill-equipped, undertrained and outmatched. Yet they still somehow managed to pull off one of the greatest military upsets of all time and officially birth the United States. Many of us see clear evidence the “how” was orchestrated and enabled by God.
After signing the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, John Adams declared:
We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and with a propitious eye beholds His subjects assuming that freedom of thought and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come!
As Christians, we enthusiastically celebrate and champion America for many reasons, but especially because she’s been a nation tolerant and supportive of those of us who believe God’s promise that eternal life begins here on earth. As the apostle John wrote in Revelation, prophesying what is to come, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
Aggressive secularists grow agitated over such suggestions, often accusing those of us who profess love and faith for Jesus Christ as advocating for a theocracy. It’s a baseless charge. We simply believe that our founders, many of them Christians themselves, very consciously created a government that would welcome people of faith – or no faith at all.
Back in 1876, the Reverend Daniel C. Roberts, the rector of St. Thomas & Grace Episcopal churches in Brandon, Vt., was invited to write a hymn to help commemorate the local centennial celebration of America’s independence.
The result became one of the nation’s most beloved patriotic, faith-filled pieces of music. At the time, it was called, “National Hymn” – but we know it today as, “God of Our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand.”
God of our Fathers, Whose Almighty Hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band.
Of Shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs, before thy throne arise.
Here, Roberts’ elegant phrasing elevates our cares and concerns to the cosmic level.
Thy Love divine hath led us in the past.
In this free land by thee our lot is cast.
Be thou our ruler, guardian, guide, and stay.
Thy Word Our Law, thy Paths our chosen ways.
Partisan debates have their practical place, especially in a democratically elected representative republic, but our help and hope is found in Jesus Christ. Fight and feud as you may – our ultimate fate is in God’s hands.
The hymn ends in soaring fashion, calling on God to sustain us – and in the rancor of 2021, do we not need that now more than ever?
Refresh thy people on their toilsome way;
Lead us from night, to never ending day;
Fill all our lives, with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.