All of us have defining moments in our lives individually. Graduations, painful breakups, the loss of a loved one, achievements in our work to name a few. Generations have defining moments too. One example: 9/11 forever marked my generation of Americans.
My parents’ generation was also marked by a horrific tragedy. When he was 84 years old my dad began to describe it to our son Steve and his then fiancée Misty and me as we sat in a restaurant. We got to talking about memorable events in our lives and suddenly my dad started describing it as if it had happened only yesterday. And his portrayal of exactly what he was doing that day took every one of us back to the very moment. His word pictures were so vivid we could almost feel what he was feeling that winter in the early afternoon of his senior year at Riverside Poly High School.
It was Sunday, the worship service at First Baptist Church Riverside was over and like most teens he did not enjoy hanging around after church while his parents talked with their friends. So, he asked for the car keys and went out to the parking lot, sat down in the car and turned on the radio. Somehow, he had managed to ditch his little sister temporarily (that would be my Aunt Beverly) so he could listen undisturbed to some good music. Nothing unusual really; the way Dad told it this was pretty much standard procedure on Sundays. Only on this particular Sunday when he turned the radio on, he heard the words, “We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a special bulletin…” No music, just news. The year: 1941; the date: December 7th. What Dad was describing was where he was when he first heard the news of the infamous events of the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He would always remember the details of that: the date, the impact it had on his life, that look on his mother’s (my grandma’s) face six months later when he left home to go to a war started on 7 December 1941.
Certain events change the course of history for whole generations. Pearl Harbor was one such event; impacted the world, impacted America, impacted my dad, and so we remember December 7, 1941. This year we remember the 81st anniversary of that beginning of our involvement into World War II. The remembrances aren’t quite as many or as somber as they used to be since so few of my parents’ generation are still living. But its impact on our country is still profound none the less.
And speaking of historic events, isn’t there another one in December? Oh yeah, Christmas! While the remembrance of Pearl Harbor is of a more serious nature, Christmas is nothing short of a celebration. While the theology behind the event is almost imponderable, the content is relatively simple. You see after sending His messengers to mankind for the first few thousand years of humanity’s existence, God came in Person. And that Person is Jesus the Messiah (the Christ). In the Christmas celebration we remember His entrance into the human race, being born to Mary and Joseph.
The Christmas holiday is also one of those ‘value-added’ events. In addition to the incredible spiritual significance, it’s also a time where we reemphasize the value of family. It’s an opportunity to take time to communicate with our immediate and extended families; and it’s a time of good will toward our neighbors and the rest of the humans with whom we share planet Earth. And it’s a time to settle accounts with the ones we love. To extend forgiveness, to receive forgiveness, or just agree to put bygones behind us and move forward in love for one another.
We live in a fallen world and both Pearl Harbor and Christmas remind us of this. The one an expression of mankind’s dark, wicked and aggressive heart; the other an expression of God’s light and His deep and abiding love for humans such that He came and paid the ultimate price for our sin. May His grace awaken in you a deeper appreciation for the God who saved us when we could not save ourselves! And may His forgiveness flow through you to all the people around you this blessed season.
In Christ our living hope,