Richard L. Evans ponders Christmas in world war-torn 1944 —
Of Christmas — and of Things to Come
Somehow the customary comments about Christmas seem less than fully satisfying this year. True, there is going to be a warmth about it. There always is. No matter what is lacking — notwithstanding vacant chairs, notwithstanding hearts heavy in their loneliness — the spirit of the day, when the eve arrives, moves in, takes over, and permeates all. Time does not dissipate it. Distance is no barrier to the thoughts and feelings that belong to this day.
And yet, this year, some things are different.
Perhaps more gifts are en route to more places this Christmas than ever before.
Perhaps more longing thoughts for the absent, and more prayers, spoken and unspoken, are in the hearts of men this Christmas than ever before.
Perhaps so many men never yearned so fervently for peace, and perhaps so few ever had it.
Never, perhaps, were so many devoting themselves to the purposes of killing, nor so many exposing themselves to being killed.
Never, perhaps was so much of the wealth and resources, and of the powers and forces of earth, dedicated to the purpose of destruction.
Never, perhaps, did so many want to go home who couldn’t.
Never, perhaps, were so many men bitter in their hearts, hopeless in their thoughts — never were so many reaching for some meaning and purpose and plan in it all.
And never, perhaps, were those so grateful who have the faith that overrules bitterness, and the assurance that there is plan and purpose in the events of this world.
There are some things different bout this Christmas.
You fathers and sons and brothers, over there, and down under — you on the seven seas, and you on the borders of ancient nations — you up in the free skies where freedom is challenged — you for whom yearning hearts wait, and for whom young voices pray — you’ll open packages, you’ll swallow hard, you’ll ache inside. But there’ll be a warmth of feeling come over you. You’ll know you’re not forgotten — but you’ll never know just how much you’re not forgotten. There are tightening throats and tear-filled eyes here, too. Those packages aren’t the measure of our love — but they’re an evidence of it — the best we can do now. Somehow you’ll understand.
And there is something more we’d like to say, which we know you’ll also understand:
The world gets sick at times — and men with it. Or perhaps it’s the other way around — men get sick, and the world with them. Established patterns and plans seem to break up. Values change, seemingly — and seemingly morals and principles, and the very meaning of life — seemingly, but not in reality. There is still a God in heaven who made this world and who gave men life, and who set his hand to accomplish that which will be accomplished. No truth is ever lost. No righteous cause is ever lost. No life is ever lost. No plan or purpose of the Almighty is ever lost — not even when we don’t understand what is happening or why. Out of all this, somehow, will come order — and no promise will fail of fulfillment.
Another thing we would like to say: We know that the closest thing to your hearts is to come home, to all you left — to pursue in peace your plans and dreams — to live in peace with your families and friends. And we know, too, that greatest of all the gifts we could give you would be to keep your homes as you would have them — to keep your children in those paths where you would have guided them – to keep for you the opportunity to live in freedom, to learn, to work, to be wanted and needed, to be loved and cherished and understood — to preserve for you, all those things you’ve fought to keep the enemy from destroying — those things you hold dearer than life, and which you may rightly expect to find when you return.
We say this to you also, wherever you are, whatever you’ve seen, however you’ve struggled and doubted: that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, who will come again even as he said, and that the world will find its peace. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of the Prince of Peace. The crucifixion couldn’t stamp it out nineteen centuries ago — nor can it now — no matter how badly men have behaved — no matter how brutality and intolerance have reared their heads.
May the spirit of Christmas, and the certainty of things to come, give you strength, and courage, and peace — this day and always.