Summary: This sermon looks at the sacrifices soldiers make on behalf of others. This is the same sacrifice Jesus makes for us on the cross. We have been bought with a high price and should enjoy our lives.
For those who do not know, ANZAC day is not the day to celebrate Australia’s victories, nor do we celebrate how great our country is. Rather we celebrate the sacrifice and loss of the young men and women who protect other people’s freedom. Australia has never been seriously attacked or invaded; we never entered any war because we were attacked. Rather our young men and women have always gone to war to protect other people’s freedom. ANZAC day is the day that we remember their loss and their deaths for the protection of that freedom.
From the Australian War Memorial website
The Dawn Service observed on ANZAC Day has its origins in a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today. During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack. Soldiers in defensive positions were woken in the dark before dawn, so by the time first light crept across the battlefield they were awake, alert, and manning their weapons; this is still known as the “stand-to”. As dusk is equally favourable for attacks, the stand-to was repeated at sunset. …
Today dawn services include the presence of a chaplain, but not the presence of dignitaries such as the governor general. They were originally very simple and followed the military routine….
In more recent times families and young people have been encouraged to take part in dawn services, and services in Australian capital cities have seen some of the largest turnouts ever. Reflecting this change, those services have become more elaborate, incorporating hymns, readings, pipers, and rifle volleys. Other services, though, have retained the simple format of the dawn stand-to, familiar to so many soldiers.
From the defence force web site
The Dawn Service on ANZAC Day has become a solemn Australian and New Zealand tradition. It is taken for granted as part of the ANZAC ethos and few wonder how it all started. Its story, as it were, is buried in a small cemetery carved out of the bush some kilometres outside the northern Queensland town of Herberton.
Almost paradoxically, one grave stands out by its simplicity. It is covered by protective white- washed concrete slab with a plain cement cross at its top end. No epitaph recalls even the name of the deceased. The Inscription on the cross is a mere two words - "A Priest".
No person would identify the grave as that of a dedicated clergyman who created the Dawn Service, without the simple marker placed next to the grave only in recent times. It reads:
"Adjacent to, and on the right of this marker, lies the grave of the late Reverend Arthur Ernest White, a Church of England clergyman and padre, 44th Battalion, First Australian Imperial Force. On 25th April 1923, at Albany in Western Australia, the Reverend White led a party of friends in what was the first ever observance of a Dawn parade on ANZAC Day, thus establishing a tradition which has endured, Australia wide ever since."
Reverend White was serving as one of the padres of the earliest ANZAC's to leave Australia with the First AIF in November 1914. The convoy was assembled in the Princess Royal harbour and King George Sound at Albany WA. Before embarkation, at four in the morning, he conducted a service for all the men of the battalion. When White returned to Australia in 1919, he was appointed relieving Rector of the St John's Church in Albany. It was a strange coincidence that the starting point of the AIF convoys should now become his parish.
No doubt it must have been the memory of his first Dawn Service those many years earlier and his experiences overseas, combined with the awesome cost of lives and injuries, which inspired him to honour permanently the valiant men (both living and the dead) who had joined the fight for the allied cause. "Albany", he is quoted to have said, "was the last sight of land these ANZAC troops saw after leaving Australian shores and some of them never returned. We should hold a service (here) at the first light of dawn each ANZAC Day to commemorate them."
That is on ANZAC Day 1923 he came to hold the first Commemorative Dawn Service.
As the sun was rising, a man in a small dinghy cast a wreath into King George Sound while White, with a band of about 20 men gathered around him on the summit of nearby Mount Clarence, silently watched the wreath floating out to sea. He then quietly recited the words: "As the sun rises and goeth down, we will remember them". All present were deeply moved and news of the Ceremony soon spread throughout the country; and the various Returned Service Communities Australia wide emulated the Ceremony.