Twenty years ago the Colonel was serving as the Operations Officer for Battalion Landing Team 1/8, deployed aboard amphibious shipping in the Mediterranean for a six month tour. We were the ground combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and quite literally the tip of the American "presence" spear that has been maintained in that area since just after the Second World War. Twenty years ago this week, several other Marine officers and I were in Israel attending a planning conference for our unit's upcoming training in that country. I had been to Israel before, on Uncle Sam's behalf, but this visit was a surreal experience. While we were keenly aware that it was the Christmas season and that we were spending it away from our families, there was nothing visible in Tel Aviv to remind us.
It was one of my most memorable Christmases, nonetheless.
There were no commercial and/or secular distractions from my Christian beliefs regarding the reason for celebrating the season. No decorated evergreens. No Santa. No Rudolph. No frenzy to buy gifts. But, if one was observant of the countryside (as is this curious geography nut) on the commutes from downtown hotel to rural training areas, one could see people engaged in activities whose technology and technique had not changed for millennia. For this man, it was one of the greatest feelings of nearness to my God that I had ever experienced.
It has been thus for me ever since. The more I resist the will of merchants, family and friends to "get in the Christmas spirit," the closer I draw to Jesus and His will.
At the risk of incurring the wrath, disdain, or even mild displeasure of those of you for whom the cheery greeting means everything to you this time of year, the Colonel does not wish you a "Merry Christmas." Not if by "merry" you mean so absorbed in the giggly, brainless fluff of the season that you find no time for quiet, reverent reflection on the unfathomable love that God showed man with the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son.
Here's wishing you a very reflective Christmas!