The National Day Parade has always been something to look forward to each year, but in recent days, with Covid-19 still going on, I couldn’t help but wonder: Should we still be celebrating? Is there much to celebrate in the first place?
For me, these questions hung in the air even as I heard the announcement that this year’s National Day Parade would be postponed to August 21.
To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought. But over these few days, with the latest as well as older National Day songs playing on the radio, I couldn’t help but think of how far we have come as a nation.
It can be said that each National Day song reflects the time that it was written in and for. Listening to the older, much-loved songs like “Stand Up For Singapore”, “Count On Me, Singapore” and “One People, One Nation, One Singapore”, I can remember a different Singapore in the 1980s. The challenges then were different, yet no less formidable. And the lyrics of these songs encapsulate the spirit of the people across the nation: determined to play our part, from the heart, for the country we called home.
Indeed, having a place to call home is something each generation can probably relate to. In the days of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, when the exiles had just returned to Jerusalem to rebuild its wall, they were thankful to God for bringing them home. And so they held a celebration, filled with joy and songs, that was beautifully described by Nehemiah:
The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, as well as the priests . . . The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. —Nehemiah 12:40–43
The Israelites did not hold a celebration as a way to forget their hardship. Rather, they were celebrating because of their hardship. Instead of asking, “Why should we celebrate?”, they chose to focus on: “Who are we celebrating?”
In their case, as they marked how far they had come since being exiled to Babylon and recalled the enormous task of rebuilding their home, they reflected on the One who made it all possible—God.
Today, we face a different challenge: a coronavirus that has struck the place we call home, that has dismantled our lives and isolated us from one another.
More than a year on, tired and battered, we are slowly trying to rebuild our lives and reclaim some semblance of a “new normal”. As we look forward to the National Day Parade on August 21, perhaps we ought not to ask, “Why celebrate?”, but focus more on the “Who”.
Let us remember how God has brought us through it all, and how He continues to preserve us just as He did the Israelites.
And let us continue to share the joy of God with those around us, to bring good cheer and fellowship in whatever manner we can to family and friends, giving thanks always through prayer and supplication, celebrating each day by remembering who God is and what He has and will do for us.
Lord, thank You for being with us through hard times. Please help us not to just focus on our hardship, but to also remember that no matter what happens, You are always there for us, preserving and protecting us.