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“May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God” (Psalm 20:5).

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Get your sparklers ready. Chill the watermelon. Pack those coolers with bubbly sodas. And bring copious amounts of apple pie.

We’ve got a holiday to get on here.

Whether we gather for a picnic at the park, gnosh with neighbors around a barbeque pit, or splash it up on the shore, we need to take time to celebrate. Whoop it up and show gratitude for the blessings glimmering around us in this magnificent nation.

Some might doubt the validity of celebrating right now. How can we shout hurrah while cancer ravages our friends, terrorism razes across the earth, and children suffer unspeakable abuse? Why celebrate a country with so many glaring flaws?

The woes of civilization are not as new as they might seem. Evil has prowled and victimized the world since the first bite of sin entered the scene. Throughout Biblical history, we see patterns of violence, corruption, and affliction involving both perpetrators and victims. Brokenness fills the pages of both Old and New Testaments.

Commands to rejoice pervade Scripture despite evil’s persistent attempts to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Levitical law required Israelites to observe the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread,  Firstfruits, Pentacost, Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles (See Leviticus 23). God carved celebration into his covenant relationship with His people. He designated time to turn their attention from the brokenness of the world to focus on His love. In offerings of praise, we recognize that in the midst of this earthly mess, God still demonstrates His love to us. We draw near to our Father when we appreciate His gifts.

Christ attended feasts and weddings, dinners and parties. He bonded with His beloved followers and forged new relationships with the lost. As Jesus approached the time of His crucifixion, He promised an indwelling joy to the disciples, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). Though the apostles faced horrific persecution and martyrdom, this unquenchable joy emanated from the Lord’s loving, sustaining,and eternal presence with them. Paul offered repeated urges to rejoice throughout his letters to the scattered Christians, and Peter also echoed Jesus’ encouragement, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6).

Another question stands before us. Why should we allow evil to steal our appreciation for the love God demonstrates to us? We can offer thanks for the liberties we enjoy in our nation, the availability of clean water, and our current ability to congregate in Jesus’ name. We can recognize blessings in those living and those whose lives have enriched us in times past.

If you struggle to identify positives, imagine all vanishing. List thankfully the elements you’d want to reappear. Moving lips, pinky toes, breath, etc. Small things grow more significant when we consider losing them.

Above all, let’s thank God for the ultimate freedom. Wave our sparklers and banners in celebration of our eternal hope. Whoop in the joy of salvation. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Hurrah!

And don’t forget to bring the ice cream.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philppians 4:4).