Beginnings. We like to celebrate them. We mark birthdays and break out the cake and ice cream each year. We recognize anniversaries and send cards and well wishes. And of course, we party hearty on Canada Day in this country and today, the 4th of July, in the U.S. Beginnings are important and it’s good that we take time to think back to when our countries first began. They both had founding fathers who were concerned about the spiritual needs of their new countries. We see it in the constitutions they drew up and in the songs they picked as their nation’s anthems. Our heritage is a spiritual one. Unfortunately, that emphasis has been forgotten.
A young man came to our church as a guest soloist this past Sunday. We had just celebrated Canada Day and, in our town, it’s all wrapped up in the Stampede. Fire works on the first were a little anti-climactic since they’d been booming into the skies for a few nights already. The excitement of the rodeo overshadows the Canada Day events in this town. But this young man had been the singer/preacher at Cowboy Church, held at the stampede grounds earlier that morning and had been asked to come and sing for our congregation. He has a rich, booming voice and his first song caught our attention. Then he said he was going to sing O Canada, our national anthem. I thought, well, okay, I guess that’s appropriate in a way. Then he said that he had discovered that our national anthem was actually a prayer. That got my attention.
As he started to sing the congregation rose to its feet and joined in. Then, after the well-known chorus, our voices faded away as Trevor continued alone singing words that stunned me. They are, indeed, a prayer -
Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,Hold our dominion within thy loving care;Help us to find, O God, in theeA lasting, rich reward,As waiting for the Better Day,We ever stand on guard.
When the song, originally written in French, became our national anthem, this and other references to God were left out. Over the years, the original intent of the song has been completely lost.
How sad. How tragic. Though the song had been sung since 1880 it became official as our anthem in 1980. It took only one hundred years for God to be left out. How frightening. As Trevor finished singing on Sunday morning, he gave a warning that our country is a long way from what it should be, spiritually. He encouraged us to pray.
Perhaps it would be fitting to sing the anthem every day – as it was originally written. After all, it is a prayer.