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Anzac Day  

The original Anzac Day services were very much church-led and they continue to be strongly influenced by our Christian heritage to this day. After World War 1 the national feeling of mourning and grief was acute, and so it was only natural for churches to take a leading role to help people come to terms with that grief. Over 1 million Australians fought in WW2 and over 39,000 died. In WW1 it was 416,000 who enlisted and over 62,000 who died.  

The Christian understanding of suffering, redemption and resurrection sustained us then, and it is still what will sustain us today in the face of ongoing wars and grief. More than 1,000 Australians have died in action since the World Wars.  

On this Anzac Day it is good to stop and consider. Australians still value, as did our forebears, the mateship and camaraderie that is synonymous with being Aussies. Freedoms, globally, are under greater threat today than at any time since the Second World War. We need to be thankful, vigilant and pray for peace, and for lasting freedom to serve and worship God. 

Anzac Day services feature The Ode, followed by the sounding of The Last Post, a minute of silence and a further bugle sound of The Reveille. The national anthems of Australia and New Zealand then follow – the ‘A’ and the ‘NZ’ of ANZAC. Pared back to its simplest form, the Anzac Day ceremony draws directly on our Christian heritage. 

The Ode is actually an excerpt from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in 1914 as the horrors of the First World War were unfolding. The Ode ends with the line, ‘At the going down of the sun, and in the morn, we will remember them’. Binyon took these words from Deuteronomy 16, an account of the Israelites’ Passover ceremony, which is an act of remembrance giving thanks to God for their rescue from slavery in Egypt. They were to mark the end of the day, and then the beginning of a new one, so that they would always remember who it was that delivered them.  

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

“For the Fallen” by English poet Laurence Binyon: 

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free. 

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears. 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe. 

They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them. 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England’s foam. 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As stars are known to the Night. 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain. 

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