Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Poppies and Crosses
The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the incredible sacrifice made many young men of the time and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in war of any kind. Here are a few lines from the poem:
‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.’
When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest and nature began to be restored. Before long the poppies grew over the battered earth. The colour of red reminded people of the extreme bloodshed and the sacrifice made by millions of soldiers. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.
But that poem also mentions another symbol: ‘Between the crosses, row on row’.
This refers of course to the crosses which marked the graves of the men who died, who laid down their lives for their families, friends and countrymen. But the use of a cross has a greater significance because those crosses are of course the Cross of Jesus.
One of Jesus great sayings was: ‘Greater love hath no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13).
When Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sin, he did exactly that for you and for me. He laid down his life for us - his friends. Quite an amazing thought that we can call ourselves friends of the living God...
Many people have benefitted from these two great symbols of sacrifice – the Poppy and the Cross. Both brought freedom. The sacrifice which the poppy represents brought freedom to Europe from dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini. But the cross brings us an even greater freedom – a release from sin and death which brings us into a loving friendship with God.