I am a big fan of American colonial history. In particular, I have read a lot about the Revolutionary War and have gotten to visit a few of the historical sites, including Yorktown, Virginia, which was the site of an event that had been unimaginable to just about everyone six years earlier. Throughout those long, tortuous, and uncertain years of war, a rag-tag band of American rebels took on the best military and naval forces the world had to offer. Yet, with the assistance of a French naval blockade, the bulk of the British forces in America was besieged in Yorktown. Without the ability to be reinforced or resupplied, British General Cornwallis surrendered his forces to Generals Washington and Rochambeau on October 19, 1781. The greatest empire of the world had been defeated by her own colonies in America – colonies that struggled to take on such a feat. On that day in Yorktown, the British saw their world turn around so radically that as they laid their weapons down and marched out to surrender, they played a tune entitled “The World Turned Upside Down.”
Even though that was an appropriate recognition for what was happening their world, the world had been turned upside down long before then. It happened when God sent His own son to live with us, to teach us, and to redeem us. The birth of America was certainly fantastic and strewn with many miraculous events, but the birth of Immanuel, God-with-us was infinitely more amazing. Because of the life and purpose of Christ, the world has truly been turned upside down.
“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah’” (Luke 9:18-20, NIV). When Peter answered the question put to him by Jesus, he fired a “shot heard ’round the world” without even knowing what a rifle was. His answer reveals to us that Jesus was God’s Messiah. He was not the Messiah of the political structures. He was not the Messiah dedicated to the fulfillment of a national purpose. He was not the Messiah of those who dominated the religious structures of Israel. He was the Messiah sent from the true God as a sacrificial gift for our redemption from sin and death. And because of that, He still is the eternal Messiah who redeems.
I think that it’s a glorious thing to be able to celebrate the birth of our nation. It’s a more glorious thing, though, to be able to celebrate our new birth in Christ. When we are able to give the answer Peter gave, “[You are] God’s Messiah.” and believe in Jesus as our Savior, then we can celebrate the birth of a new, eternal person. And that is really more important than even the birth of a new nation. It is the only way to experience the world turned upside down.
Have a Glorious Fourth!