(By the Rev. M. Kolyn)
Duet. 16:14 , 15 “You shall rejoice in your feast, … because the Lord your God will Bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.”
Some like to celebrate and others do not. In some families not one single birthday passes by without a glad remembrance, and hearty congratulations or a festive commemoration; in other families, on the other hand, these days slip by unnoticed. We cannot say, however, that people in the last mentioned families do not treasure or love each other, but it cannot be denied that in the first mentioned case more is done to increase happiness, to kindle gratitude and to strengthen the bond of mutual love. So also the feeling of glad and thankful remembrances vary from one nation to another. One nation more than another puts special emphasis on the principal events in her history for the benefit of the changing generations, and to keep their interests in this alive. It is an undeniable fact that nothing is so calculated to estimate the worth of the past, and to appreciate the present. But it is also good to prepare us for the future, to stand still from time to time to see what the Lord has wrought and given, and what we experienced in happiness and want. Every celebration suggests that we glance back, with the purpose of continuing our path in the future with more clarity and greater dedication. This is also true as far as our celebration is concerned; and we have in this mainly:
I. THE REASON of our celebration. The question is partially answered with this: “Why are we celebrating? What is the occasion of this day of commemoration which we are setting apart? We remember that it is about 25 years ago since the first settlers (of this now rich and expanded colony) settled in this area. We commemorate how God has led and cared in a singular and blessed way. How He has tried and chastised us on the one hand, but how He has prospered and enriched us on the other hand. We remember that God has not only blessed us materially, but how we have expanded as a Christian community; how the congregations multiplied and how it widened our circle increasingly.Not only did gracious homes and functional barns arise, but also schools and houses of
worship testify in all parts of our settlements of the value which we give to sound knowledge, moral development and true piety, more than to material prosperity or earthly possessions. Reasons abound in a time like this to compel us to reflect, communally and in public, on our birth and development and to erect a monument to the honor of God.
II. THE WARRANT. “But,” someone possibly asks, “do we, as Christian people, need a warrant to commemorate this festively?” To which we would answer that it is quite fitting and in agreement with the commandments which God gave his people many a time, that they should remember festively the goodness and leading of God, on special days, given to them by God. In many similar sounding commandments is the word, that we wrote above: “that you will be altogether joyful.”
With each returning year there were those 7 days of gladness, in which they would be joyful before God. The Lord wished that His people would be joyful in Him, and with Him. That they would be joyful and glad by obeying Him, and by sharing in His mercies and favor. Therefore, in this connection, the ordinances are given: “therefore you should be always joyful.”
A great part of the public and national religious life consisted of promoting, with gladness and thankful remembrances, the great festivals in Jerusalem , which were held three times a year. A Day like we celebrate is not only calculated but necessary to keep alive God's mercies and faithfulness in the minds of future generations. On a day like this we do not say to ourselves, but also to the generation that follows: “Don't forget it, it is the Lord who gave it to you.”
Twenty five years! A commemoration cannot be postponed any longer, or a new generation would grow up which cannot witness to the experiences of the early struggles and salvation.
Besides, should we not celebrate the first twenty five years while the pioneers and early strugglers are still living with us, so we can all commemorate this festival with glad thankfulness to God.
No, if we would not throw a grateful glance backward at this time, and not to reflect at all, or to erect an ebenezer, would be a flagrant ingratitude to Him who gave us everything that we possess, and Who has made us what we are, Let us celebrate and be glad, as long as everything is in the Lord.
III. Let us now be concerned about THE WAY of celebrating.
1. Let us be first by recognizing God. Don't we say in our hearts: “My power, and the strength of my hand, has given it to me. But you shall remember that it is the Lord Your God, who has given you the power to receive it.” He took us here; He blessed us; He sustained us in trials; He caused the expansion; to Him all the gratefulness of our hearts is due.
2. With gladness in God. This happens with the realization that greater than all blessings which God gave to be enjoyed richly is the possession of the Lord Himself.
We could pity, rather than congratulate each other, if we had lost the Giver of all these gifts, if our hearts did not love Him more than anything which His loving Hand gave to us.
“Blessed are the people, who do prosper,” but above all, blessed “are the people whose God is Lord God.”
3. With dedication to God. The thank – offering which is required of us is the giving of ourselves and our all to the Lord and His kingdom. Do we think about these questions: “Why did He let us expand? What purpose does the Lord have for our people in this area? Why does He prosper us and increase our wealth? Undoubtedly this is to serve Him with it and to promote His Kingdom. Let all our festive joy be a gladness in the Lord, which flows from the reality that He is our God, and that we are His possession. Let us be reminded of this:
“God has blessed His people so that they would always fear Him, and keep His command- ments, and from now on, step firmly in His footsteps.