I have told my Dad he should write down his stories from World War 2. I am afraid that they will be lost to history. But he is not much of a writer, so any stories will be past down by oral tradition. A couple weeks ago he told me a story. My dad was raised in a small farm town in the Netherlands, a little town like our own. During Second World War, the Nazis controlled the hydro power supply. All the control boxes were locked up, so that the locals could not have access to it. They would only turn it on for essential tasks such as farm work. The rest of the time they would have to use candles if they wanted light at night.
On Christmas Eve of 1944. My Dad and his friend had an idea. They would climb the pole and attach the house power directly to the wires circumventing the power boxes. It was risky, let me rephrase that, it was reckless and stupid. If they got caught, it could mean punishment and imprisonment. They also didn't know which were the regular wires and which were the high-power ones that ran the thrasher. They had a general idea, but they weren't sure.
My dad, 18 and his friend, Bertus Huiser who was a few years older than my dad, armed with ladders and some makeshift wire contraption climbed up the pole. They hooked it up and miracle of miracles it worked. The word came from the house, “We have power”. Light in the darkness. Hope gleaming in the midst of turmoil. The family all gathered in the living room and my Opa read the Christmas Story from the bible to them. And they sang some Christmas songs.
Stille nacht, Heilige nacht
Silent Night, Holy Night.
After about an hour, my Grandfather told them it was time to turn it off. They went back and unhooked it. Just as they did a German plane flew over them. They must have seen something, because they dropped a flare. This was not a warning flare, but a parachute flare. It would light up areas to make it look like it was daytime. My dad said it was so bright, he could see the individual blades of grass, even those it was night. They hid and stood still and waited for it to go out. After about five minutes the flare went out and the plane was satisfied that nothing was happening and flew away.
Two things stood out to my dad as he remembered this Christmas Eve. First, how exhilarating it was and how meaningful the Christmas Story was when presented over the backdrop of war. Although the war had tainted everything, the profound simplicity of the message of Christmas spoke above the darkness. Hope in darkness. Peace in the middle of war. Joy in the midst of adversity. The love of Christ transcends.
My whole world was tainted with the blue of loss this year. I was worried about how the coloring of my world would effect Christmas. Christmas, often is a time for family and loss is felt more keenly. C.S. Lewis or as my wife and I call him, “The Oft Quoted C.S. Lewis” – Speaks profoundly on this topic. He had an immense power in his words. Lewis could make paint drying seem like a profound and beautiful experience. One of his writings is a very helpful and poignant book on grief and loss entitled, “A Grief Observed.” In it he chronicles his journey of grief after the loss of his wife. He said:
“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there's no God after all,' but ‘So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”
Lewis' belief in God was intact, his concern was that events would somehow skew his view of God. I have had this same fear. Faith is my life and my livelihood. In my tainted world, my mind has gone to dark places. I have questioned the sovereignty of God, I have doubted the goodness of God. I have confronted Him on His sense of justice. I have wondered about His care and whether He has forgotten me.
I have discovered and continue to discover that He has not. He never did.
I have taken great comfort in a verse found in the book of Zephaniah/ It is not an Advent verse particularly. But what I find in it is the message of Christmas summed up. Zephaniah was written during dark times in Jewish history. 23 times it speaks of something called “The Day of the Lord.” A day of coming judgement. but even in the midst of this an incredible message of hope springs forth. The wonderful thrill of hope. Listen to Zephaniah 3:17.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
As I read this scripture several truths began to speak to me.
God is with me. First, Zephaniah states that the “Lord your God is living among you.” Matthew when talking about Jesus' birth says that His name will be called Emmanuel, which means God with us.
God is mighty in my life. Zephaniah also said that he would be a “mighty savior” Matthew also stated, “and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” God mightily conquered my sins though Jesus death on the cross and he continues to be mighty by giving me daily grace, strength, peace and joy.
God rejoices over me with singing. I have always thought this to be a cool concept. The scripture says that “He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Music is a big part of my life. I have a huge music collection. I have joked that 80% of my brain is song lyrics. But I had something happen to me with a song that I never had happen before. I often listen to worship music while I’m in the office on YouTube. Often it will play songs that it thinks I will like. One such song is “Good and Loved” by Travis Greene. I listened to it and liked it. It was written from the perspective of this verse. It is God singing over us. The message is very simple, he is reminding us, “I am good – you are loved.
I listened to it a few times as I often do, but the real miracle happened in the dark. In the middle of the night I woke up and the song lyrics were singing over me. The song was playing in my mind singing over me, God reminding me “I am good – you are loved. This has been going on every night since November 5th. I wake up and I hear the song reminding me that God is good – I am loved.
Imagine God singing it over you.
Through your story is My fingerprint In the valley there is confidence In the shadow I will be your strength One thing’s for sure I am your Lord
Through the chaos I will be your joy When you’re finished I have so much more In the waiting I’m an open door Stand still and know I am your Lord
They’ll be times when you’re up And times when you’re down I’m never too far Just look around and you’ll find Me I’m by your side arms open wide I am good you are loved Oh I am good you are loved
What was and is is covered by the One Who was and is you’re covered by love What was and is is covered by the One Who was and is you’re covered by love I am good you are loved Oh I am good you are loved
God loved the world so much that he sent His only son, as a baby in a manger, that those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life. The message of God's love was sent in a manger two thousand years ago and the message is the same today:
God is Good – You are loved.