Christmas Reflections

It’s that time of year again. Time to remember. And pray. And try to maintain a sense of peace amid all the business and clamor of the season.

I’ll be blogging these next few days as I attempt to describe emotions that seem to arise every December. Words often fail to capture our deepest thoughts and feelings. So a lot of what I’ll post will be beyond words, if that makes any sense at all.

The year that is ending was filled with good activities and many challenges. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Independence Day 2022

As we approach the celebration of our nation’s founding, I need to share with you what I believe to be one of the greatest threats to our democracy I’ve ever seen. It’s called Christian Nationalism, the ideology that endorses the supremacy of one faith over all others and the imposition of Christian beliefs and moral codes on all 330 million of us. To illustrate the dire need to combat this strategy of the radical minority, I draw a quote from a well-known political leader:

“The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in entertainment, and in the press- in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during recent years.”

Adolf Hitler. Radio address to the German people on July 22, 1933.


I am always humbled at this time of year. The God of the Universe chose to become one of us. Who can grasp it; who can comprehend it? Those who claim to know exactly how it happened bother me. I hear nothing but arrogance in their claims. This is a mystery. Perhaps it is THE Mystery. “The Incarnation” is what the theologians call it.

All I can do is pray for the words to shed a little light on my finite mind. Some of those words came to me this morning from a man named A. W. Tozer, who was a pastor and writer of another generation. In one of his devotional thoughts written for this holy season here is what he said:

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…The majesty on high was the baby Jesus once cradled in the manger straw. Taking a body of humiliation, He was still the Creator who made the wood of that manger, made the straw, and was Creator of all the beasts that were there. In truth, He made the little town of Bethlehem and all that it was. He also made the star that lingered over the scene that night.”

Impossible to understand, but too wondrous to ignore. Tonight is a time to bow and to worship. To trust that the story is true and that humanity has hope. All because of this miracle that happened two thousand years ago.

I cling to this like a Marine swept into storm-driven waves and finding driftwood that saves my life.

The Truth About War

In one of Jack Nicholson’s strongest roles, Marine Colonel Nathan Jessup is prodded by Navy Investigators about the death of an enlisted Marine. The Navy officer, played by Tom Cruise, looks the Colonel in the eyes and says, “I want the truth.” An enraged Jessup snarls back, “You can’t handle the truth!”

I believe this applies to Americans who speak glibly about war from the safety of our shores, as they rally in “Support the Troops” events. Only one percent of our population is now serving in military uniform; there is an increasing disconnect between our armed forces and the civilian world.

As Kabul was falling a few days ago, a retired Army Colonel said to me, “People seem to think that war is merely an extension of foreign policy with our overwhelming military strength always winning the day. It may turn out to be that way, but in the meantime, war is about killing the enemy and destroying everything that belongs to him.”

That’s the truth about war. It is brutal. It’s dehumanizing. It turns the enemy into a subhuman entity, since humans are not able to shoot someone we see as a father or mother, sister or brother, son or daughter. Combat is filled with the cries of the wounded and the dying. It is, in the words of Civil War General Sherman, “all hell.”

All this struck me recently as I heard the news of bomb blasts in Kabul that took the lives of several American troops and nearly two hundred Afghans. Here is what I saw in my mind’s eye as memories inundated me in a surge of gore. When a bomb of that size detonates, it sends a shock wave and a torrent of metal in all directions. It rips human flesh apart with a velocity that vaporizes what was once human. Arms, legs, torsos, faces, eyeballs, teeth, and bones are shredded and scattered across the terrain or plastered against a nearby wall. All of this carnage is accompanied by a hellish gale of blood and human connective tissue, now disconnected.

In the aftermath, there is nothing to do but try to rescue those who miraculously survived and then pick up the pieces of men, women, and children. I’ve seen some of the strongest warriors weep as they held a tiny foot or ear in their hands.

War is this, and much worse. It is the ultimate declaration that life is disposable. I don’t believe the human mind is capable of generating a more blasphemous affront to the Creator, who made all humankind in His image.

We can’t handle this kind of truth.