The National Cherry Blossom Festival annually commemorates the 1912 gift to the city of Washington of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and celebrate the continued close relationship between our two peoples. In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of these trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.
By 1915 the United States government had responded with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1927, a group of American school children reenacted the initial planting; the first festival was held in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the nation's capital.
Then one fateful day, this friendship went sour, with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Conflicts arising before WWII escalated to the point that Japan launched the first attack on our native soil since the war of 1812. After being ushered into the war, and after much bloodshed and valor, in the end, the USA and her allies prevailed and the international conflict was won.
The Japanese then welcomed their victor onto their soil. Much of modern Japan's current economic success is due to their desire to be like the one who was successful in the war: America and her allies.
Three thousand, eight hundred more trees were accepted in 1965 by First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. In 1981 the cycle of giving came full circle when Japanese horticulturalists came to take cuttings from our trees to replace Yoshino cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood. With this return gift, the trees again fulfilled their roles as a symbol and agent of friendship. The most recent event in this cycle occurred in the fall of 1999. It involved the formal planting in the Tidal Basin of a new generation of cuttings from a famous Japanese cherry tree in Gifu province reputed to be over 1500 years old.
In 1994 the Festival was expanded to two weeks to accommodate the many activities that happen during the trees blooming. Today the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., an umbrella organization consisting of representatives of business, civic and governmental organizations. Over a million people visit Washington each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in the Festival that heralds the beginning of spring in the nation's capital.
Cherry blossoms are an annual and elegant reminder of the beauty and brevity of life. 1 The Washington, D.C. cherry blossoms are also a wonderful reminder of the friendship and reconciliation between America and Japan.
There is probably not a person alive today who has not experienced hurt and betrayal from a friend at some point in their life. It probably takes you only a moment to bring one to mind.But there is an even more powerful story of friendship, conflict and death, followed by reconciliation. It is not a story from the last hundred years of world history. It a story that spans thousands of years. It is the story of love and sacrifice greater than any ever seen. It is the story of Jesus Christ.
Would you have a few minutes for me to share some of the details about that story of reconciliation?
This story of reconciliation also begins with the giving of a gift, the gift of life. “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” 2
It is followed by a rebellion, a rebellion against the giver of the gift. This rebellion resulted in the loss of the friendship and the relationship with the giver of life. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 3 “As it is written,‘There is none righteous, not even one.’” 4
But the Giver of life loved His creation so much that before the beginning of time, He planned a redemption.
That redemption involved the ultimate sacrifice: the sacrifice of His very own life (or should I say the life of His very own Son). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 5
That sacrifice provided a way to restore the original relationship with the Creator and Redeemer of life. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” 6
If so great an offer of love and reconciliation was offered to you, would you take it? “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” 9
If you want to receive this sacrificial gift, you need to recognize the Creator, recognize your sin and separation from Him, seek forgiveness, and then receive the covering or payment for you sin in the person of Jesus Christ. For“whoever believes Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” 2
When I received Christ, I prayed a prayer to God something like this:
“Dear Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying to pay the price for my sins. Though I am undeserving of Eternal Life, Your love for me has made a way for me to live forever in heaven with You by carrying the weight of all my sin on Your body as You died on the cross, and shed Your blood for me. Forgive me of my many sins before You that have caused me to fall short of the glory of God, and could cause me to be eternally separated from You. I ask You to come into my life, and I receive You now as my Savior and Lord. I give You control of my life. I ask the Holy Spirit to indwell me and strengthen me in my new spiritual birth to live in victory over sin. I ask You to help me walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and not in my fleshly sinful habits. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. In Jesus name, Amen.”
If you pray this prayer for yourself, we would love to know. If you have questions, we would love to know also!
God's great blessings to you,
- Isaiah 40:6-8
- Genesis 2:7
- Romans 3:23
- Romans 3:10
- Romans 5:8
- I Cor. 15:22
- Psalm 139:13
- I Cor. 6:20
- Hebrews 2:3a