Archive for the ‘xmas’ Tag

How the Battle of Guadalcanal Gave Me Christmas

How the Battle of Guadalcanal Gave Me Christmas

I grew up in a faith tradition that did not celebrate Christmas. I grew up being taught and believing that Christmas was a pagan ritual that Christians had been duped into observing and that God was entirely put out by it all to the point that one may just burn up in a sea of fire for uttering the words “Merry Christmas.”  I was taught that Christmas was a rip off of the pagan holiday Saturnalia… and well there is a connection. Let me explain. You see Saturnalia was indeed a pagan celebration kept by the Romans in the last centuries B.C. and throughout the early centuries A.D.  Saturnalia was a time of gift giving and feasting. Families gathered for meals and to renew relationships. During the time of the Early Church Christians made every attempt to root out pagan observances so why not replace Saturnalia with a festive celebration of the birth of Jesus? Since no definitive date or time could be established for the birth of Jesus the Early Church saw no problem celebrating it over-top Saturnalia to replace the pagan ritual.

I was in my late twenties before I ever actually celebrated Christmas. It was a difficult time for me. Mythologies die hard and in the back of my mind lingered this nagging

US Marines with a captured Type 92 Machine Gun

US Marines on Guadalcanal with a captured Type 92 Machine Gun (1942)

fear that God was gonna git me. Yep, “git” me. I know… git ain’t a word but down South where I cut my teeth we don’t much care what is or ain’t a word so long as we know what we’re talking about. 🙂

In any case I struggled with the idea of Christmas as a Christian celebration. The first year of our marriage my wife gave me an early present a few days before Christmas. It was a set of documentary DVD’s about the US Marines in World War II. In one of the documentaries the narrator explained that on one particular occasion on Guadalcanal a squad of Marines attacked an enemy machine gun emplacement. Enduring the withering fire of a fully automatic machine gun these brave Marines managed to capture the gun. It was what the narrator said next that turned the light on for me about Christmas. You see the Marines, being who they are and having traditionally received the left over low-grade equipment the other branches had cast aside, did not have a machine gun of their own but as soon as they captured the enemy machine gun nest they did! What the Marines did that day back in 1942 was to turn the machine gun on the enemy.

Brilliant! What the Marines did on Guadalcanal and what the Early Church did was simply brilliant. Most often the enemy of the Gospel is the wrong-headed mythologies of our own broken minds. We invent false religions and celebrations to soothe the longing within our souls. Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger… Emmanuel is the only salve for the wounded soul. The genius of the Father, Son, and Spirit is that out of our mythologies and wrongheadedness they may just redeem and put to good use what some might dismiss as being “rooted in paganism”.

The Father’s Son has come. The Father, Son, and Spirit love and like you! Hallelujah! Amen!

  ~Bill Winn

Somewhere In God’s World

 

Recently we celebrated Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a time when we honor those who have served our country in the Armed Forces. My Uncle Joe Winn is someone our family honors and respects greatly for his service to our country, his selfless life as a family man, and for the legacy he has left us in his children and grandchildren. Joe D. Winn made an impression on all of us in our family but I wanted to tell you about a time in 1945 when the events of Joe’s life impacted one little girl who was only 4 years old. You see after completing flight school in the Army Air Force, Second Lieutenant Joseph Daniel Winn was assigned to the island of Iwo Jima as a bomber escort flying the famed North American P-51D. On 28 July 1945 Joe was shot down during a strafing run over an airfield on the Japanese mainland. He was taken prisoner and (as were all allied flyers) classified by the Japanese as a war criminal.  One evening my Aunt Beth could hear her parents and grandmother talking about Joe. She was only 4 at the time but she recounts the story in this way. Joe Winn

 “Mama, where’s Joe?” No answer. “I heard you say Joe’s gone to ‘War’. Mama, where’s ‘War’?” “Honey, there are some things children shouldn’t hear. Please don’t ask any more questions.” Later, I heard Mama and Daddy talking about Joe again. They used words like “Japan” and “missing” and that enormous word, “War.” Mama was crying.  Young as I was, I knew where to get an answer. “Grandma, please tell me, where’s Joe?” Grandmother put her arms around me and held tight, so I wouldn’t see her tears, but I knew. “We don’t know exactly,” she said, “but wherever Joe is, that place is somewhere in God’s world.” Fear slipped away, just like that, as Grandmother’s words drew a picture in my mind: a circle of light surrounding and shrinking the dark place called “War.” Then Grandmother said, “Let’s say a prayer for Joe.” 

Being sent to Omori civilian prison in Tokyo, Joe and the rest of the boys in his cell block endured conditions too horrible to mention. One ray of hope came from their guard who had gone to school in the USA. As Japan’s surrender grew near the guards could be heard going from block to block executing the Allied P.O.W.s. Joe’s sympathetic guard locked the large steel door to their cell block and slid the only key under the door with instructions not to open it for any reason. Moments later Joe and his comrades heard the other prison guards shoot their friend who had just saved all of their lives. Joe made it home after the war, raised a wonderful family, and lived the rest of his life in peace. He is one of our family’s greatest heroes, though I doubt he ever thought of himself as such. 

So this Christmas if you find yourself unsure of where a loved one may be or if there is some reason you and a loved one are apart remember: Jesus is the Light of the Cosmos! (Jn.8:12) Jesus called his Father the Lord of Heaven and Earth. And Jesus himself declares that we are in him and he is in us. (Jn 14:20) This is indeed Triune God’s world and whether we know exactly where someone is at any given time, whether we worry about loved ones serving in the military, a son or daughter that we have not heard from in a while, whether we are estranged from family because of brokenness or divisions we must remember that where ever that person is they are in Jesus and in God’s world. It is no small comfort to know that we are all in Jesus and we are all ultimately safe as long as Jesus is safe. Just ask my Aunt Beth.

~Bill Winn

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