In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Monday, December 22, 2008

"Please, God, Bring Him Home!"

Even with all the sorrow that hangs, and will forever hang, over so many households; even while war still rages; even while there are serious questions yet to be settled - ought it not to be, and is it not, a merry Christmas?
~ Harper's Weekly, December 26, 1863
This question can only be fully understood and answered by those who, at this time of year, have suffered war's privations personally--soldiers and their families. Thanks be to God, I and my family have not (yet, at least) been called upon to endure those privations: separation, fear, longing, grief, and despair, as well as physical suffering. But we who have been blessed with comfort and the company of our loved ones at Christmas must remember and say a prayer for those who have no choice but to wait and hope for those blessings another year--many of them, our own friends and neighbors.

In my experience, nothing captures their agony more poignantly than Thomas Nast's illustration "Christmas Eve," which appeared in the January 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly. Be sure to click on the image for a lager version that will show all its beautiful detail.

The image depicts a family split apart by the American Civil War. The woman on the left is on her knees in prayer with her children sleeping behind her, begging God to protect and bring home her husband. On the right, the husband can be seen sitting with his rifle while on picket duty, beside a lonely campfire, gazing upon a small album with pictures of his wife and children. To the upper left and right are happy images of Santa and reindeer, but below the images of the parted spouses are depictions of soldiers marching through the snow, ships being tossed at sea, and most powerfully of all, the graves of soldiers who will never, in this life, have another Christmas with their families. The feelings that these images stir are beyond words.

So, this coming Christmas Eve, let us all pray to see they day when the prophecy of Isaiah comes true at last: "[T]hey shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isa. 2:4)

1 comment:

It's A Wonderful said...

I was listening to Oliver North on the radio yesterday, and was brought to tears by a caller who had lost his son five years ago to war. Hearing the quivering in the father's voice, as he fought to hold back his grief and tears, pierced my mother's heart and led me to pray for our heroic young men and women fighting for our freedoms and democracy. I was reminded that there are families who miss their soldiers, whether they be on the battlefields or joyfully in the bosom of our Lord, who lovingly gave His life for us. My prayer this Christmas is that this great nation, established by God himself, recognize and applaud the efforts of our courageous young men and women, along with their families, who have held the evils of terrorism at bay. That this great nation not squander these young peoples' sacrifices, by seeking to gain favor with rogue dictators and corrupt governments in an effort to become more "popular" in the eyes of the world. After all, do we not teach our children that character, integrity and the willingness to help others is what matters; to be a shining beacon facing adversities on this earth is the battle that we ought to seek daily.

God bless our military & their families, as we await the joyful birth of a sweet baby who will sacrifice himself to save generations upon generations of nations from evil, offering all the rewards of eternal life.

Merry Christmas!