It is Christmas Day, 2007, now almost 8:00 in the evening. We have finished dinner, and now I have returned to the solitude of my trailer. After work on Christmas Eve, I organized a little fellowship gathering behind the building. We ate some snacks, threw horseshoes and darts, and talked around a fire. We then went to the palace for the base candlelight service. The Tongan Marine Choir sang, and everyone had a wonderful time. After the service, we all went to the dining facility to eat dinner together. I then went back to the trailer, and tried to call Sheri, but could not get a good connection. In the meantime, the headquarters called to tell me that an emergency message had come for one of the soldiers. Her brother had died that evening. I went back to the office, talked with her on the phone (she had gone to Balad for a class), then called Sheri.
Christmas morning began with my men's group that meets on Tuesday mornings. That was followed by a briefing at Brigade headquarters. I went to the office then, and opened the Christmas presents that Sheri had sent me a few weeks ago. I have to admit, it was a little lonely opening up Christmas presents all by myself. We had a service at noon in the chapel, then Christmas dinner in the dining facility. This afternoon, we avoided work as much as possible. One of the guys has a Wii video game, and we had bowling and golf tournaments. After I was quickly eliminated from the bowling tournament, I walked around all of the buildings and visited with soldiers.
I think that this was my first Christmas away from home. Sheri and I spent some Christmases in Germany when I was stationed there, but we were always together. Home is wherever she is, and I pray that we never spend another Christmas apart. Even though I was away from home, I still spent the holiday with family. My army family and I have been through a lot together, and the fun we share together greatly softens the blow of loneliness.
Because of that loneliness, we might be tempted to skip Christmas. Christmas is, like every other holiday in a war zone, another work day. Reports have to be filed, briefings attended, and so on. The pain of separation, both for those here and for those at home, can be more than we want to bear.
We, both here and our families at home, find ourselves in a world of fear. We are afraid to answer the phone, afraid to answer the door. We are afraid when we hear the alarm that announces incoming attacks. We are afraid when we haven't heard it in a while, thinking that it's been too long. We are afraid of having to leave home, we are afraid of returning home and finding that things have changed. We find ourselves surrounded and overwhelmed by fear.
That makes the message of Christmas that much more important: "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
"Fear not"... that is the message of Christmas, in all of its profound simplicity and beauty.
Pray for peace.