Remember original meaning of Memorial Day

I thank my God for every remembrance of you…”

Philippians 1:3

Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, became a national holiday after the Civil War, when so many sought to honor the dead in both the North and the South from in that horrible conflict. More than 600,000 soldiers died in the Civil War.

Often families and friends would gather in small cemeteries, where they would decorate the graves of their soldiers and enjoy an meal afterward.

The holiday was named Decoration Day and remained so for 20 years.

At that time, the holiday became known as Memorial Day … a time of not only decorating the graves of war dead, but a time of remembering their courageous acts and the giving of their lives as the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow man.

On Memorial Day, the flag is raised to full-staff and then lowered to half-staff until noon. The half-staff position remembers the soldiers who have given their lives in the service of their country. At noon, the flag is raised to full-staff, where it remains the rest of the day. This is symbolic of raising the memories of the dead, and the resolve of the people that these brave soldiers shall not have died in vain, that the people resolve to continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

Psalm 27:3-4 reads, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

It’s not just about the race, the food and the fun … it’s about honor, remembrance, liberty and justice.

The Rev. Marianne Nichols is pastor of Charlottesville United Methodist Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.