Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Candlelight Christmas

All day on the 24th and 25th our Commander, Sergeant Major, and I traveled with their personal security detail to each of the combat outposts in our area of operations. During our visit with Soldiers we held a Holiday Service at each location. The services were traditional and included carols, readings, and a meditation--we concluded by lighting candles and singing Silent Night. The Sergeant Major and Commander participated in each of the services, with LTC Silverman sharing the story of the Christmas Eve cease-fire of 1914 between the Germans and the British. At our last stop on Christmas, one of our Sergeants offered that the service finally helped him "get into the Christmas Spirit".

We left Fort Stewart about a year ago with the expectation that the term would be twelve months, as it was our previous deployment for all of 2005. When we learned the 12 months had been extended to 15, most everyone took the news in stride--we are Soldiers after all. However, I expected by the time we got to the Holidays--a point by which we would otherwise have been packing and getting ready to re-deploy--the grumbling and complaining would become more widespread. That hasn't happened. I'm impressed by our Soldiers' steadiness. Don't get me wrong--there's not a single one of us who wouldn't rather be back with our families. But they seem to realize that not only will complaining not help, but that the busier they stay, the quicker time goes by. Some guys have access to web cams and tuned into watch their children open presents. Others settled for a phone call or an email.

In my meditations at these Holiday Services we discussed the qualities of Joseph and Mary--their devotion to God, to their family, and to the law of the land. We considered how the example of a young, teen-aged, Jewish girl two-thousand years ago could inform the behavior and choices of American Soldiers in combat today. We thought about the necessary humility of Joseph, how he must have swallowed his pride to allow his bride to give birth in a stable or cave where animals lived. Above all, we considered the irony not only that the Creator of this Universe would become man, and that he would do so for the ultimate purpose of overcoming sin and death--but that it would happen in what was likely a dung-scented, flea-infested cave for livestock. His birth in such a place illustrates that he is, indeed, Immanuel--God with us.

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