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Not A Silent Night

Not a Silent Night

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6

It was Christmas Eve in Thailand, 1972. Thanks to Armed Forces Radio “Silent Night” was playing in our room . . . but it was not really a “silent” night at all. I was a young Air Force wife visiting my husband serving that year in Southeast Asia—but even in my naïveté I knew something big was imminent.  Linebacker II was in progress—the 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi—and the constant sound of take-offs (“please, Lord”) and landings (“thank you, Lord”) from the Air Base was surreal in dissonance with the sweet music I was hearing on the radio. A rescue was in the works, and the POWs, so long tortured and confined in Hanoi, heard and felt the thunderous aircraft noise with great hope and expectation for their eventual release from captivity.

A few months later, with great anticipation I stayed up all night in my apartment back in Oklahoma to watch on TV as the POWs stepped off of their plane and into the arms of jubilant American service members who were anxious to minister to these heroes. Linebacker II had forced a return to the peace talks, the Paris treaty was signed, and repatriation began.

In the years following, my husband and I had the privilege of getting to know some of these great men who had sacrificed so much at the hands of the enemy. But that Christmas Eve night of 1972 I could only imagine what was really happening in the skies and in the hearts of those who were involved. This was a battle, and not everyone with whom we had breakfast would return from their mission that day. I was a visitor—a quiet observer to a scene that I would never forget. It was holy ground.

Forty-five years later I can look back at that experience . . . and realize that just as there was war in 1972, Jesus’ rescue of mankind did not come amidst a pristine world of peace and calm. “Silent Night” is a beautiful song that calls us to stillness and reverence, but the reality is that He was born into a world filled with noise and violence, captivity and torture, selfishness and greed, fear and uncertainty, lies and corruption. Jesus came to provide rescue and proclaim victory . . . . There is a battle.

The oft-quoted prophecy in Isaiah 9:6 reads: “And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In his new study Bible entitled Discover God, Bill Bright widens our understanding of these profound phrases by explaining them in a military context. He writes, “The titles given to this son of David follow a logical sequence from the planning of a battle to the securing of victory: ‘Wonderful Counselor’ suggests a brilliant strategist; ‘Mighty God’ is literally ‘God is a warrior’ in the Hebrew text; ‘Everlasting Father’ was a common royal title in the ancient Near East; and ‘Prince of Peace’ suggests the kind of reign the Davidic king would enjoy. Isaiah’s hope was realized in the birth of Jesus.”

Peace will not be fulfilled in this world until Jesus returns. Peace in our hearts can only be possible, in the mean time, if Jesus rules in them. Dave Boehi, writer and editor at FamilyLife, wrote in his Marriage Memo entitled “O Come, O Come Immanuel”: “When Jesus was born, God’s people literally lived in captivity—they were ruled by the Romans, and they were hoping for a Savior to free them. They wanted relief from their physical suffering. And yet their captivity and exile was spiritual as well, for they had gone 400 years without hearing from God through prophets or through inspired Scripture . . . We are like Israel, in that we think our biggest problems are in the physical realm. On a big level we want relief from economic hardship and terrorism . . . Yet our biggest problems are actually spiritual in nature. In a sense, we all mourn ‘in lonely exile’ when we are not connected to God, when He is not ‘with us.’ Jesus did not come to liberate us from suffering, but to free our spirits as we go through the suffering that is part of life. He makes it possible for us to connect with God—to know Him personally. For those who have received Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit lives within them to guide, comfort, and strengthen them, no matter what their circumstances.” (December 15, 2008)

Jesus came 2000 years ago into a world filled with terror to bring peace in our hearts and lives. We can sing “Silent Night” with meaning only if we understand this. His lowly birth in Bethlehem was truly a thunderous rescue if we can understand the enormity of the scene—God Himself coming to earth to save sinful man from certain eternal damnation.

Aircrew members were willing to sacrifice their lives for the saving of others during Linebacker II. How much more our Savior—who did sacrifice His life for the saving of ours. Will you accept His rescue—and surrender to His gift of salvation? Only then can you “sleep in heavenly peace.”

Questions to Share:

1. Do you understand what really happened on Christmas? If not, click on this link.

2. Take some time to pray individually, and as a couple, for the insight to view problems from a spiritual perspective and to trust God to guide you through what is challenging you today.

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