From an email newsletter from Providence Forum:
As we approach Independence Day it is a good time to reflect on just what this special holiday means and why we celebrate as Americans. Put as a question, we might ask, "Why all the fireworks?"
John Adams, writing on July 3, 1776 from Philadelphia to his wife, Abigail, eloquently and prophetically captured the mood that would accompany future anniversaries commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence:
"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
His description sounds a lot like what the 4th of July has been for the last 233 years: parades, festivals, picnics, fireworks, music, celebratory gatherings. But if you look carefully at Adams' words, he does not tie the revelry to an excitement only about being a new nation - America - independent of Great Britain. He rightly understood the foundation of America, and that the fireworks and festivals also ought to include "solemn acts of Devotion to God Almighty" for "the Day of Deliverance."
The biblical imagery is unmistakable. Adams connected the biblical Exodus with American independence, revealing both a special providence for this newly formed nation, and a special responsibility. Writing prior to the years of bloodshed of the Revolutionary War, Adams continued his letter with full comprehension of the totality of what the emergence of our nation would mean:
"You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. - I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. - Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
Thus, America was not to be a nation unto itself, a nation satisfied with its mere existence. Adams envisioned America as a nation comprised of "Rays of ravishing Light and Glory." Those "rays" mean many things to many Americans, including liberty, freedom, responsibility, and charity. These have been bought with the price of "Toil and Blood and Treasure." The Providence Forum, together with all Americans, celebrates our Independence Day this year because so many have sacrificed so much over the last two centuries to preserve America so that it can shine its light to the world, a light considered at its founding to be a solemn, providentially planned divine act of deliverance and freedom.
We wish you a blessed Independence Day!