Not long ago, a memory on social media prompted me to reminisce about the day we joined nearly ten thousand people gathered at the city stadium. Americans, young and old, came out to celebrate Independence Day with a ballgame and fireworks. Our family had a great time, despite the breezy cool temperatures.
Our evening at the stadium represented more than a ball game. A young boy sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The loud speaker blared Lee Greenwood’s lyrics about being proud to be an American. At half-time, we again stood to sing “God Bless America.” We acknowledged veterans medaled with purple hearts and years of service. Old Glory blew in the breeze.
I remember standing in the stadium, wiping my eyes, indeed proud to be an American, grateful for freedom’s ring. As the crowd exclaimed over the fireworks, another melody of patriotism from my sixth-grade chorus days came to mind:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
(The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, 1849-1887)
There are multiple interpretations of Lazarus’s poem, and times have certainly changed since 2014. Yet, these words etched into my heart as a child not only remind me of America’s history but of God’s golden, light-filled invitation to mankind to enter another kind of country. The kingdom of God.
No matter which nation we pledge our allegiance to, in reality, we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” who “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13, 16). God extends His love-filled offer to all who find themselves tired, poor, wretched, homeless, and tossed about by the earthbound tempests of life—and of sin.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus said. “And I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. . . . Whoever comes to me I will never cast out“ (John 6:35, 37). “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).
God lifts the lamp of His Word to show us the way to eternal life. In a quiet interview, Jesus articulated it this way. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Regardless of which country claims us as citizens or what traditions we embrace, let’s look for God’s light lifted high beside His golden door.