69 years ago, the Empire of Japan’s navy and air forces attacked the United States Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii. This date would be described the following day by President Roosevelt as “a date which will live in infamy.”
“December 7th” thus became a “marking date” in United States history – alongside of July 4, 1776, June 6, 1944, November 22, 1963, and September 11, 2001.
The men and women who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor are leaving us by great numbers every day, as are all those of the World War II generation. And even though these events happened nearly seven decades ago, those who are asked what they remember of that fateful day still tend to choke up, a tear or two falling silently. It was a day that we would never want to happen again, but also a day we should never, ever forget.
What has this to do with Christmas?
Well, for the next five Christmases (‘41-‘45) millions of people would not be “home for Christmas” except in their dreams – thus giving inspiration to one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time – “I’ll be home for Christmas.” And while not specifically written about soldiers or even during the war years, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” became an anthem for many service men and women for those five Christmases. The notable exception would be those men who endured the Christmas of 1944 in the Ardennes Forest surrounding the town of Bastogne – who saw enough snow and cold weather, along with enemy artillery, to sour them on a “white” Christmas for the rest of their lives.
But even more significant, Christmas during a time of war can be a stark reminder that Christmas is part of a love story that takes place in the middle of a war.
Jesus came to save us from the enemy – sin, death, and the power of the devil. He was born on Christmas – as we all know. And the story of Christmas is equally well-known from Matthew 1 and Luke 2.
But consider this part of the Christmas story:
1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. – Revelation 12:1-5 ESV
This provides us with information that tells us that there’s more going on with Christmas than just “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Actually, the fact that there were angels at the birth of Jesus, as Luke 2 records,
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel…. – Luke 2:13 ESV
should also clue us in on the war aspect of Christmas.
“Host” here is a military term and angels are not merely messengers for God but also the army of Heaven – another indication that Christmas is more than we at first might realize.
On this seventh day of Christmas where, in the United States, we remember an infamous day, we can also remember that Christmas is about God fighting for us and winning the war that saves us from our sins and gives us eternal life.