I love all things military. My father is retired Army and served in the Gulf War. I’ve always been proud of that fact. My heart swells and I get a lump in my throat as I walk through an airport and pass a man or woman in uniform. I ponder the sacrifice they’ve made so I can live my life safely within our borders. I always try to shake their hand or thank them for their service, but even then it never seems like enough.
My husband and I raised our boys to love and respect our military as well. One time we took them to tour the Battleship U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile, AL. We had a wonderful time, that is until we walked in to the attached hangar. Inside were different types of old war planes. The boys loved looking at those, but my husband and I were drawn to the wall with dozens of mens pictures and their stories. As our boys crawled in and out of the planes, we stood and read about these brave men who sacrificed their lives so their comrades could live. One man fought his crashing plane all the way down keeping it in the air just long enough for the last man to safely jump to freedom. Another crashed his plane in to an enemy ship to keep them from firing on his fellow soldiers, allowing them to escape.
Picture after picture we studied the men’s faces, story after story we read with tears streaming. What great courage, what phenomenal fortitude. But I couldn’t help but think of those who lived. What must they feel? Do they feel a sense of incredible responsibility? Do they feel they must do something awe-inspiring with their lives in the service of others? They have lived their lives knowing someone sacrificed theirs. I walked away that day not only grateful to read such tales of courage, but also thinking about how the men who were given the opportunity to live, truly lived. Did they appreciate every moment, every hour? Did they approach life differently from the rest of us? What must that be like?
Fast forward years later, I’m in a hotel room scanning channels. I saw Jim Carrey’s face and immediately stopped because, well, I just think he’s hilarious. The scene I happened up on was an older man walking Jim Carrey through a cemetery. (from the movie, “The Majestic”) If I remember correctly, they stopped at a grave and the older man explained how this man gave his life in combat so others could live. Immediately I remembered the stories on the hangar wall, and those who got to keep their lives because of the sacrifice of another brave man. I thought again about the sense of duty one must feel in that situation. Then suddenly, BAM! Jesus spoke to me and said, “That’s what I did for you.”
To be honest, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I had never related the two. I had never seen Jesus sacrifice in the same light as I pictured these brave men’s stories. Jesus sacrificed His life, so that I could live. Not just squeak out a life, but so that I could abundantly live a life beyond my wildest imagination. What a sense of duty, obligation, responsibility, not just to get by, but to do something awe-inspiring and wonderful with these decades I’ve lived, and that I have left to live. The sacrifice wasn’t for me to be selfish with my time, my money, my knowledge, my love. But rather for me to use these things He has given me in the service to others. It’s the only way I’ve ever found true satisfaction. It’s when I’m being selfish with what I’ve been given that I feel empty and drained.
Look at your life today in light of His sacrifice. Christmas is the perfect time to start. It’s the beginning of everything. It’s the beginning of his 33-year sacrifice that led to His death on a cross for you, for me, for our world to know God. Will you spend some time today and for the next nine days leading up to Christmas, thinking about how you can live your life differently in light of His sacrifice? If you need some motivation, just look up Sgt. Rafael Peralta, Spec. Ross McGinnis, 1st Lieutenant John Fox, and PFC John Reese to name a few. Or by all means just read the book of John in the Bible.
And don’t forget to take time to read The Christmas Story out of Luke during these next nine days. Let it sink in as you think about this day being only the beginning of a 33 year sacrifice of love just for you.