We all love Canada Day. For us it is Canada’s birthday, our national day, though we know our nation existed long before 1867. We enjoy being part of a big national party. Back on July 1st 1867 the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined and became a kingdom in its own right within the British Empire. It took until 1982 for the Constitution Act to pass and we became completely independent. Unlike our neighbours to the south, Canada has never made a big deal of our gaining independence from the UK.
Whether we celebrate with large concerts, cultural displays, barbecues, firework displays or just waving our flag we enjoy the casual, family-orientated day.Across the world Canadians gather for a day of rejoicing, patriotism and camaraderie.
Canada Day prompts us to remember our history.
When Jacques Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River to Montréal in 1533 he wrote in his diary, “… we all kneeled down in the company of the Indians and with our hands raised toward heaven yielded our thanks to God.” There was an early desire to share with the natives the good news of Jesus. ‘The Father of New France’, Samuel de Champlain wrote in his diary, “ … (the aboringines are) living without God and without religion … I thereupon concluded in my private judgement that I should be committing a great sin if I did not make it my business to devise some means of bringing them to the knowledge of God.”
We owe a great debt to our forefathers who had a definite belief in and relationship with God. They had a trust in Jesus that motivated their actions for the benefit of their fellow citizens. David Thompson, the explorer and statesman developed maps from his surveys between 1784 and 1812. Many of these maps are still being used today. He explained why he endured the physical hardship of exploration: “so that these physically impenetrable barriers may be traversed and the gospel be spread”. Like so many Christians today, to have found forgiveness and a relationship with God through Jesus was such a joy he wanted all to trust in Jesus.
Tradition says that it was Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley who originated the word ‘Dominion’ in Canada’s name. He was one of the Fathers of the Confederation. Each morning he would start his day praying to God and reading the Bible. One morning he had read Psalm 72:8 which, speaking of God, says, ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.’ He presented this to the others whose ambition was to stretch the nation from the Pacific Ocean to the Lawrence River and the North Pole. That Bible verse is now incorporated in Canada’s Coat of Arms.
The present one, dating back to 1994 incorporates another Bible verse, ‘They desire a better country’, which in Scripture is speaking of heaven. We know that despite the beauty of British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Toronto, Banff or Montreal, they can never be heaven on earth, because people like us live there! Heaven is an eternal place where God reigns: there is no sin, suffering, sickness, disease or death there. Sadly our world is very different.
Toronto’s 25th Mayor, William Howland, in 1886 urged voters, “Let us keep the city, a God-fearing city, and I would rather see it thus than the greatest and richest city in the continent”. He could hope and strive, but a greater power is needed to fulfil his wish.
These are not just ancient ideals. It is moving to see people wearing red and white, but more important to see men, women and children who know God in a personal way. We have a rule of law in Canada, but God’s rule of law shows us what is right, but also that we are wrong! We don’t love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and nor do we love our neighbours as ourselves. Falling short of this is what God calls sin. It separates us from God, would keep us out of heaven and condemn us to hell. To know this sends a shiver down one’s back!
Yet the good news of Jesus is that He who has total dominion came into our world to deal with our two big problems, sin and death. He lived a life without fault in a country which was enemy occupied. His role was not to fight for independence as a revolutionary leader, but to lay down His life carrying on Himself all the rebellion of the world. When He died on the cross He was the Substitute Saviour paying the penalty for our sin. We were not created to live without God, and through Jesus’ death and resurrection He has made a way back to Him. The living, risen Jesus welcomes all who put their trust in Him, forgiving the past and then guiding them through life, death and into eternity.
The Premable to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms states, ‘Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognise the supremacy of God and the rule of law’. Writer Margaret Clarkson was born in Toronto though was a teacher in Ontario for 38 years. She penned hundreds of hymns, but her hymn ‘Amid the fears that oppress our day’, which captures the belief that God is Lord of all, is best suited for our Canada Day:
Amid the fears that oppress our day,
Across the clouds that obscure our way,
One golden truth sheds its way -
Our God is sovereign still.
Though wars may arise, and though kingdoms fall,
Though ills may threaten, and fears enthral
Our God still lives, and He hears our call –
Our God is sovereign still.
Is God your sovereign? Do you know Him as your Lord and Saviour? Would you thank the Lord Jesus for coming to earth to die for you? Today, will you ask the risen Jesus to take possession of your life, following Him as your Lord?
God’s dominion is from sea to sea, but ask Him to include you too!