In the previous blog post, I covered the following four holidays: New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Mardi Gras. Now I will examine the next four holidays.
5. St. Patrick’s Day
The Catholic church chose March 17th to honor Patrick, who was a missionary to Ireland. How do people celebrate this man’s zeal for bringing the Gospel to the pagans? They act like pagans. In Boston, New York, and Chicago, thousands line up on the street to watch a parade. The people are dressed in green. Many look forward to using the day as an excuse to get drunk.
In Springfield, IL, the community hosts an annual parade too. The last four years I have gone with a group to open-air preach and hand out tracts. Last year, we set up at the beginning of the parade to proclaim God’s glorious salvation. How did the community organizers respond? They shut us down. One organizer had a cop come over to stop us from preaching with amplification. We decided to move to another corner where we were not bothered. Afterwards I meditated on the hypocrisy of celebrating a man’s life by shutting down the same message that he proclaimed. It would be like reading Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address at the start of a Lincoln parade only to have the organizers stop you. While this is frustrating, we must remember that the god of this age has blinded people spiritually.
What is the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Proclaim the gospel! 1 Peter 2:24 summarizes Christ’s crucifixion:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
When you stand up to preach, give a brief overview on Patrick. Explain that God called him to go back to Ireland to proclaim the gospel among the pagans. Talk about his missionary zeal. He went back to the island where he was enslaved, so that they might have life. Then, transition to proclaiming the same message which Patrick announced. Christ Jesus came to die as a curse on the tree, so that we may have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
The remembrance of our Lord’s resurrection is a perfect occasion to direct our speech and preaching to eternal matters. Many schools take Good Friday and following Monday off. Shops will have Easter decorations and sales to encourage holiday purchases. Cultural Christians will make a point to go back to church after missing several months since Christmas. Use these cultural rhythms to point people to Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 summarizes the hope that we have in Christ:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”
Since Jesus was raised from the dead, then we who are in Christ will be raised. If you preach outside during Easter, keep pointing people to their coming death. It is guaranteed to happen, but no one knows when it will be. Ask them, “Are you afraid to die? Where is your hope in death? What comfort do you have?” Then, proclaim that Jesus is a risen Savior. Since He lives, then you can live if you come by faith. Since He died as a substitute for sinners, then you can have your iniquities removed and be at peace with God on the judgment day. Hallelujah!
7. Memorial Day
Memorial Day honors military members who died in the service of their country. This is not to be confused with Veterans’ Day which honors all military personal who served. Memorial Day is meant to be a somber tribute which recognizes the ultimate sacrifice. These men and women died, so that we may live in a free society.
The theme of sacrificial death is at the heart of the gospel. Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, so that they may live. 1 John 3:16 poignantly instructs us:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
When preaching this text, ask the following question, “What is the greatest sacrificial death in human history?” Of course, it is Jesus. Follow up by saying, “What makes it the greatest?” There are three reasons. First, the One who sacrificed Himself is the greatest. Jesus is not an ordinary man. He is the God-Man. He is the spotless, undefiled, and unblemished Lamb. God died for man. Second, there is a great divide in character between Jesus and man. Jesus who is without sin took the place of His enemies who do nothing but sin. He died a convicted man’s death even though He is innocent of all sin. Third, the purpose of the sacrifice is greater than any other. Jesus died for His sheep, so that they would be forgiven of their sins and have everlasting life. In battle, a man sacrifices his life for another, so that his friend can live maybe fifty or sixty more years. However, he will still die. With Christ, His death secures eternal life. All who repent and believe will not have just a lifetime to live, but they will live forever.
8. The Fourth of July
Independence Day celebrates the founding of the United States of America through the Declaration of Independence. The colonists took the bold step of proclaiming that the British Empire no longer had authority to rule over them. They listed their transgressions against the people and against God. Therefore, it gave them grounds to seek freedom from the Redcoats’ authoritarian rule.
Since the main theme of this holiday is freedom, we must exhort people to seek liberty from their bondage to sin. John 8:31-38 gives Jesus’ promise that a person can be free indeed:
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Go to the park, lake, or stadium where the community gathers to watch the fireworks. Then, lovingly tell them that their greatest need is to be set free from their sins. All have sinned against a holy and righteous God. Due to our iniquity, we are condemned. In our nature, we are slaves to the flesh. We love sin and must obey its command. Jesus proclaims that there is a key to unlock the shackles of sin that encompass us. It is the gospel! Beg the people to come to Jesus Christ by faith, so that they will be saved from the power and penalty of sin.
Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History and from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. In April 2016 Brandon accepted the call to pastor at Faith Baptist. He loves history and reading and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.