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MEMORIAL DAY: REMEMBER THE MARTYRS
It’s honorable and fitting this morning we remember the sacrifice of our nation’s great veterans, who gave their lives on battlefields abroad and here at home. By some estimates, nearly 1.3 million Americans have shed their blood and died for freedom’s cause. Still, as magnanimous as this number is, it pales in comparison to the number of men, women, and children who have given their lives for freedom’s eternal cause.
Michael J. McClymond, writing for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, wrote in its December 2002 edition: "The total number of Christian martyrs during the 20th Century is reported at 45 million." He finished his though by defining Christian martyrs as "believers in Christ who lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility."
You know, God only knows how many more have shed their blood for the cause of Christ in the last two thousand years. It’s fitting this morning we likewise remember their sacrifice. Still, more fittingly, it’s important we remember the One they believed in, who shed the purity of his blood for freedom’s cause. For without the sacrifice or our Risen Lord, we in American would not enjoy the freedoms we love and know so well.
“Memorial Day is an official holiday in most states of the United States. It was observed on May 30 until 1971, when for federal employees,, the date was changed to the last Monday in May. With the exception of Louisiana, all states observing Memorial Day adopted the change. It is also known as Decoration Day.
The custom of placing flowers on the graves of the war began on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, NY, and Waterloo has been recognized by Congress as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, then president of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared that May 30 would be a day to decorate with “flowers the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”
After World War I the day was set aside to honor the of all American wars, and the custom was extended to pay homage to deceased relatives and friends, both military and civilian. The most solemn ceremony conducted on Memorial Day is the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns located in Arlington national Cemetery.